If you can’t work due to disability, the stress of getting by from month to month can be overwhelming. While disability benefits will help relieve some of that pressure, your application won’t be approved overnight. So you’re probably wondering: how long does it take to get approved for disability?

The answer isn’t as straightforward as you probably hoped. The time it takes for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to process your application depends on a variety of factors.

How Long Does It Take to Get Social Security Disability?

The SSA denies approximately 30% of initial applications. For those who are denied, the best option is to continue pursuing the application through the appeals process. Reapplying is also an option. But this is much less likely to succeed than an appeal of the initial application.

Application

The first step is filing an application with the SSA. To apply, you need to fill out the SSA’s required forms. You also need to submit medical evidence of your condition and information about your employment history.

At this stage, the SSA will refer the medical information in your application to Disability Determination Services (DDS) in your state. DDS will gather medical evidence from your doctors and make an initial disability determination.

If your initial application is approved, the entire process will probably take only a few months. If the SSA denies your application, you will have 60 days to file an appeal.

Reconsideration

In most states, the next step of the appeals process is reconsideration. When your application is reconsidered, a new person will review it from scratch. They will look at all of the evidence again and consider any new evidence that might be available.

The reconsideration process usually takes several months. The SSA approves very few applications at this stage.

Hearing

If your application is denied on reconsideration, you can request a hearing. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will conduct your hearing.

It is at this stage that having an experienced disability law advocate can make a big difference. In fact, an applicant who goes to a hearing is more than twice as likely to win if they have a lawyer.

Unfortunately, it can take a long time to get a hearing date. Depending on where you live, it can take anywhere from seven to 20 months.

Review by Appeals Council

If the ALJ does not approve your application, you have 60 days to request a review by the Social Security Appeals Council. You will need to explain why you think the ALJ’s decision was wrong.

The Appeals Council can either:

  1. Deny your appeal, 
  2. Reconsider your application, or 
  3. Have the ALJ consider your case again.

Appeals Council review is the last level of review available through the SSA.

Further Appeal

If the Appeals Council denies your application, you still have one option left. You can appeal the decision in federal court. You must file your appeal within 60 days of the Appeals Council’s decision.

What Other Things Affect How Long It Takes to Get Disability?

Your individual circumstances may affect the length of time required for your application to be approved.

Records

Having detailed medical records is important to the success of your claim. You will want to provide as much information as possible about the treatment you have received for your condition. This includes detailed contact information for all doctors and clinics that treated you. Those with better medical records are more likely to have their initial applications approved.

Doctor Responsiveness

After you apply, DDS will request medical records from the doctors and treatment providers you listed in your application. Some doctors can be slow to respond to these requests. You may be able to save time by collecting the records yourself and sending them with your application.

Severity of Disability

Those with severe conditions may have their application expedited. The Compassionate Allowance Initiative speeds up the application process for people with rare cancers and other diseases. Similarly, the Terminal Illness program allows the SSA to process applications more quickly for people expected to die from their illness.

Some conditions, such as blindness, Down syndrome, and ALS, qualify for presumptive disability. These are conditions so serious that the person can be presumed to be disabled. If you or a loved one has one of these conditions, the SSA may start paying disability before the application is officially approved.

Location

Some local SSA offices take much longer to schedule hearings than others. If your application goes through the Houston North, San Antonio, or Portland ME offices, you may be able to get a hearing in seven months. But if you have to file with Los Angeles West, Orange, or Phoenix, you may not get a hearing for almost two years.

Get Started on My Application

So how long does it take to get disability? As you can see, it really varies from person to person. But the surest way to speed up your application is to start today. GAR Disability Advocates can help you do it. Our entire business focuses on helping people get the disability benefits they deserve. Call us at 201-308-9520 or message us online and get a free claim review by one of our experienced and knowledgeable advocates.