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Why Does it Take So Long to Get a Disability Decision?

Many clients I speak with seem to think that they’ll be approved for disability at their hearing and start receiving benefits almost immediately after.

Unfortunately, the reality is that it can still take quite awhile to receive a decision and benefits after a disability hearing.

Social Security rules require that all decisions have to be put in writing. Even if a judge says during a hearing that a case will be approved, it still has to be sent to a decision writer, who is a staff attorney employed by the Social Security Administration.

Decision writers typically have dozens of cases to process at any given time, so how quickly they get to a decision can vary dramatically by their work pace and how many cases are going through an office at a given time. Once the decision writer has drafted the judge’s ruling, it returns to the administrative law judge for review and any possible edits. Again, how quickly that happens depends on the judge’s schedule.

On the low end, I’ve seen some decisions come out as soon as three to five days after a hearing takes place.

In some complicated cases where a judge has requested additional evidence and a supplemental hearing, I’ve had a couple cases where it has taken more than a year to obtain a decision.

That is extremely rare, though. On average, most disability decisions are sent to claimants within one to two months of the hearing date. But every case is different, so it’s not uncommon for some to fall outside that range.

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