How Long Do I Have to Wait for Social Security Disability Benefits?

By Kenton Koszdin Law Office on March 13, 2023 | In Social Security Disability

How Long Do I Have to Wait for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Applicants often ask, “how long does it take to get disability in California?” The time SSA takes to start your disability benefits depends on many factors, including your disability, work history, and whether you have a Social Security lawyer.

When you suffer from a disability, your future is uncertain. Your disability must prevent you from working or training for work to receive disability benefits. This means you must live off your savings while waiting for your claim to get approved. Knowing how long you might have to wait for benefits is an important part of the process.

How Long Does It Take to Get SSI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was created to help workers who have experienced a long-term disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines your eligibility for SSDI benefits by reviewing a claim describing your disability.

Initial Application to the Social Security Administration

First, you should file your application for Social Security disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. The time limits for filing SSD start with a disabling medical condition. The SSA requires you to have worked within a certain amount of time before you file for benefits. The longer you wait, the longer your last job recedes into the past, and the less likely it becomes that you will qualify for benefits.

Next, processing your disability claim can take some time. What is the average time to get approved for disability? The SSA estimates that the average claim takes three to five months. This time period depends on factors like the nature of your disability and the time it takes for the SSA to receive the required information from your doctor.

Finally, how long does it take to get SSI once approved? The SSA requires those who are approved for benefits to wait at least five months from the date of their disability to receive benefits. The date for the waiting period disability insurance requires is determined by the SSA. Benefits start in the sixth month after this date.

Reconsideration Based on the Original Records or New Medical Records

If SSA denies your initial application, you can request reconsideration. SSA will reconsider your case based on the original filing, or you can submit new medical records.

Reconsideration is a review of the initial decision by a different claim examiner. Although most reconsideration decisions result in denial, you must go through reconsideration before filing an appeal.

The reconsideration process usually takes five months, depending on your case and whether you hire an SSD reconsideration appeal attorney. If you get approved, you have likely passed the disability waiting period.


An appeal happens when an administrative law judge reviews a claim denial from the initial application and reconsideration. If you need to appeal a denial, the SSDI approval timeline gets extended significantly.

The quickest you might expect a hearing date would be eight months after you appeal the denial. But many applicants do not receive a hearing date until 12 months after the appeal begins, and many wait over 18 months for a hearing date.

After your hearing, you will wait for one to two months for the administrative law judge to issue an appeal decision.

6 Factors that Help Answer “How Long Does It Take to Get Disability?”

how long does it take to get approved for disability

The time to get Social Security benefits depends on many factors, some of which you can control and others that are out of your hands. Some factors that can answer “why is my disability taking so long” include:

1. Claim Denial

If your application gets denied, reconsideration and appeal could add six months to two years to your wait time.

2. Location

Different Social Security offices have different backlogs. The two Los Angeles offices have the worst appeal backlogs in the system that could significantly add to your disability insurance waiting period.

3. Medical Record Delays

SSA will wait until it receives medical records from your doctor.

4. Lack of Evidence

SSA denies claims that lack evidence to support them.

5. Individual Circumstances

Unique facts could extend your SSDI waiting period.

6. Applying for Both SSDI and SSI

Concurrent applications for SSDI and SSI benefits have a longer wait time.

What Is the Established Onset Date (EOD)?

Your EOD is the date your disabling condition occurred. SSA will determine your EOD in your disability approval letter. EOD will determine when your five-month Social Security disability waiting period starts.

If your disability approval letter lists the wrong EOD, you can contact the SSA by mail or phone or visit an SSA field office. Just keep in mind that you may need evidence to support your new EOD. This evidence could include medical records, accident reports, insurance claims, or other documents.

When Does SSA Make Past-Due Benefit Payments?

how long does it take to get ssi once approved

You can apply for SSDI benefits on your EOD and become eligible for SSDI payments after the five-month waiting period for disability benefits ends. But you might wait longer during the application process.

Suppose your disability application gets denied. But on appeal, an ALJ approves your claim 15 months after your EOD.

After subtracting the five-month waiting period from the 15 months you waited, SSA will pay a lump sum, also called “back pay”, for all 10 months in which you should have received a benefit check. You can receive this payment as soon as you are eligible.

Ways to Shorten Your Wait for an SSDI Claim

SSI applicants have enormous financial pressures. Since you cannot work, you must live off savings or borrow money until you receive your first benefit payment. This leaves you asking, “how can I speed up my disability claim?”. You can influence the total time you wait by:

  • Qualifying as a critical case;
  • Fully documenting your claim;
  • Tracking your claim progress.

For how to get approved for disability fast, the most reliable way is to qualify as a critical case. Critical cases get flagged for quick review. Critical cases include:

  • Terminal illnesses;
  • Veterans with 100% permanent and total disability;
  • Military casualties;
  • Compassionate allowances;
  • Dire need cases for people without enough income to get food, shelter, or medical care;
  • Potentially suicidal applicants.

Most of these are self-explanatory. But compassionate allowance cases merit special attention. If you suffered a disease or disability on the compassionate allowance list, you do not need a terminal diagnosis.

Instead, you only need to provide medical evidence of your condition to receive accelerated processing. More importantly, compassionate allowance cases are exceptions to 5-month waiting period for SSDI.

If you do not qualify as a critical case, you can put your case in the best condition for acceptance by thoroughly documenting your condition and how it affects your ability to work. Submit medical evidence of your disability and include doctor’s letters that prove when your disability began and how it affected you.

You can also avoid a long wait for your first benefits check by tracking your claim’s progress. If SSA requests additional records, you should respond quickly to keep your claim on track.

Contact Our Social Security Disability Lawyer for a Free Consultation

If you’re considering filing for Social Security disability benefits, or you’re already in the process of applying for benefits, the experienced southern California Social Security disability benefits attorneys at the Kenton Koszdin Law Office can help. For a free and confidential case evaluation, contact us today at (818) 293-4980.

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