After I file a disability claim, how long does it take the Social Security office to make a determination?

Find out how long your Social Security office typically takes to process a Social Security disability claim and learn when expedited handling applies.

Social Security Disability Processing Time Varies

Processing time for Social Security Disability claims varies. Currently, the Social Security Administration, which is sometimes referred to as SSA, indicates that generally, initial disability claim processing takes from three to five months. The time frame to complete processing depends on how much medical information is needed to reach a decision and on how quickly you and your medical providers respond to requests from the state agency that SSA uses to evaluate your claim for disability. Processing time also depends on whether a consultative examination with an SSA-appointed physician is needed for additional information. Agency backlogs due to a higher than usual influx of claims can also affect processing times. 

Some Claims Are Expedited

There are two types of claims that qualify for expedited processing. The first is Compassionate Allowance claims. If an individual suffers from one of a limited list of diseases, illnesses, or injuries from which no recovery can be expected, either due to the condition itself or due to the advanced stage of the condition, special evidence rules apply. Because these conditions have invariably been found to meet disability requirements under the Listing of Impairments, these claims are fast-tracked and require minimal confirming information for approval. Examples of such conditions are very advanced untreatable cancers and paralyzing spinal cord injuries.

The second type of claim that can receive expedited handling is one in which the claimant is likely disabled and support medical evidence is readily available. These claims are automatically fast-tracked for a Quick Disability Decision, which is often completed in less than a month.

Deferral of Your Social Security Disability Determination

On the other end of the spectrum, very occasionally Social Security defers making a decision on a claim until nearly twelve months have passed from the disability date. This occurs if you are severely disabled initially, such as by a stroke; but based on the medical evidence, you could recover prior to being disabled for twelve months. In this situation, your Social Security office will notify you that the decision on your claim is on hold until closer to the end of twelve months when updated medical information will be obtained and a decision made.

Time to Wait

You’ve heard that saying “hurry up and wait.” Well, after you have filed your Social Security application, one of your primary jobs is to wait. The Social Security Administration estimates that it takes three to five months to process the average new claim. 

Respond Quickly during Your Social Security Disability Review

While you are waiting, there are a few things you can do to be sure your claim is as strong as it can be. First, be sure you respond to all inquiries as quickly and as completely as possible. Social Security sends your claim to an agency of your state for the disability decision. This means that you could receive letters and phone calls not only from your local Social Security office but also from your state’s Disability Determination Services, known as DDS. A quick response is important to keeping your claim on track. If you are having trouble providing what is requested, be sure to tell Social Security or the DDS that you are working on getting the information. 

Report Changes that Affect Your Disability Claim

The second thing that is important to do while your claim is being reviewed is to keep Social Security and the Disability Determination Services up to date with changes in your health, in your health care providers, and in your medical treatment. It’s even a good idea to have a relative or friend ready to inform Social Security if you are hospitalized. Similarly, it is important to report changes in your address, telephone number, and other contact information so that there is no breakdown in communication about your claim.

Check on Your Social Security Disability Claim Status

If an excessively long time passes without a decision on your Social Security application, contact the Social Security Administration to be sure that the claim is still pending and that a notice of decision has not gone astray. You can do this by calling Social Security’s toll-free number, (800) 772-1213 or by visiting your local Social Security office.

Compassionate Allowances List

Some disabilities qualify for a “compassionate allowance,” which will help you cut the red tape and jump to the head of the line, in regard to the medical evidence requirements. (However, non-medical requirements must still be met, too.)

Ordinarily, if you or those you’re helping apply for benefits suffer from a severe disability, it may be very difficult or impossible to wait months for a decision and then another one or two months to receive the first benefit payment.

That’s why, in 2008, the Social Security Administration (SSA) launched the Compassionate Allowances program. Initially it listed 50 diseases and other medical conditions—primarily neurological disorders, cancers and rare diseases—that qualify for “fast track” SSD benefit decisions in just days instead of months. Later, the list was expanded to 88 conditions, then to 100, and then again to 113. Now 233 conditions qualify for compassionate allowance fast-tracking.

If your disability is on the list, be sure to let the SSA know about it when you apply for SSD benefits or when you contest a denial. Point out on your document that you have a medical condition that qualifies for a Compassionate Allowance. Here is the most recent list. Note that some illnesses have been renamed. In the list below Hurler Syndrome is now MPS I, Hunter Syndrome is now MPS II, and Sanfilippo Syndrome is now MPS III.

Acute Leukemia 

Adrenal Cancer – with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent 

Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Adult Onset Huntington Disease 

Aicardi-Goutieres Syndrome

Alexander Disease (ALX) – Neonatal and Infantile

Allan-Herndon-Dudley Syndrome 

Alobar Holoprosencephaly

Alpers Disease 

Alpha Mannosidosis – Type II and III 

ALS/Parkinsonism Dementia Complex 

Alstrom Syndrome 

Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma 

Amegakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia 

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) 

Anaplastic Adrenal Cancer – Adult with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent

Angelman Syndrome

Angiosarcoma 

Aortic Atresia 

Aplastic Anemia 

Astrocytoma – Grade III and IV 

Ataxia Telangiectasia

Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor 

Batten Disease 

Beta Thalassemia Major 

Bilateral Optic Atrophy- Infantile 

Bilateral Retinoblastoma 

Bladder Cancer – with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable

Breast Cancer – with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable

Canavan Disease (CD)

CACH–Vanishing White Matter Disease-Infantile and Childhood Onset Forms

Carcinoma of Unknown Primary Site

Cardiac Amyloidosis- AL Type 

Caudal Regression Syndrome – Types III and IV 

Cerebro Oculo Facio Skeletal (COFS) Syndrome 

Cerebrotendinous Xanthomatosis

Child Lymphoblastic Lymphoma

Child Lymphoma 

Child Neuroblastoma – with distant metastases or recurrent

Chondrosarcoma – with multimodal therapy

Chronic Idiopathic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction 

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) – Blast Phase

Coffin-Lowry Syndrome 

Congenital Lymphedema

Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy

Cornelia de Lange Syndrome – Classic Form

Corticobasal Degeneration 

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) – Adult 

Cri du Chat Syndrome 

Degos Disease – Systemic

DeSanctis Cacchione Syndrome 

Dravet Syndrome 

Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

Edwards Syndrome (Trisomy 18) 

Eisenmenger Syndrome 

Endometrial Stromal Sarcoma

Endomyocardial Fibrosis 

Ependymoblastoma (Child Brain Cancer)

Erdheim Chester Disease

Esophageal Cancer

Esthesioneuroblastoma 

Ewing Sarcoma

Farber Disease (FD) – Infantile 

Fatal Familial Insomnia

Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva

Fibrolamellar Cancer

Follicular Dendritic Cell Sarcoma – metastatic or recurrent

Friedreichs Ataxia (FRDA)

Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), Picks Disease -Type A – Adult 

Fryns Syndrome 

Fucosidosis – Type 1 

Fukuyama Congenital Muscular Dystrophy 

Fulminant Giant Cell Myocarditis 

Galactosialidosis – Early and Late Infantile Types 

Gallbladder Cancer 

Gaucher Disease (GD) – Type 2

Giant Axonal Neuropathy 

Glioblastoma Multiforme (Brain Cancer) 

Glioma Grade III and IV 

Glutaric Acidemia – Type II 

Head and Neck Cancers – with distant metastasis or inoperable or unresectable

Heart Transplant Graft Failure 

Heart Transplant Wait List – 1A/1B 

Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) – Familial Type 

Hepatoblastoma

Hepatopulmonary Syndrome 

Hepatorenal Syndrome 

Histiocytosis Syndromes

Hoyeaal-Hreidarsson Syndrome 

Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome 

Hydranencephaly

Hypocomplementemic Urticarial Vasculitis Syndrome 

Hypophosphatasia Perinatal (Lethal) and Infantile Onset Types

Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome

I Cell Disease 

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

Infantile Free Sialic Acid Storage Disease 

Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (INAD)

Infantile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses 

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) 

Intracranial Hemangiopericytoma 

Jervell and Lange-Nielsen Syndrome

Joubert Syndrome 

Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa – Lethal Type 

Juvenile Onset Huntington Disease 

Kidney Cancer – inoperable or unresectable

Kleefstra Syndrome

Krabbe Disease (KD) – Infantile 

Kufs Disease – Type A and B 

Large Intestine Cancer – with distant metastasis or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent>

Late Infantile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses 

Leigh’s Disease

Leiomyosarcoma

Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis

Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome (LNS) 

Lewy Body Dementia

Liposarcoma – metastatic or recurrent 

Lissencephaly 

Liver Cancer 

Lowe Syndrome 

Lymphomatoid Granulomatosis – Grade III 

Malignant Brain Stem Gliomas – Childhood

Malignant Ectomesenchymoma 

Malignant Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor 

Malignant Germ Cell Tumor 

Malignant Multiple Sclerosis

Malignant Renal Rhabdoid Tumor

Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) 

Maple Syrup Urine Disease

Marshall-Smith Syndrome 

Mastocytosis – Type IV 

MECP2 Duplication Syndrome 

Medulloblastoma – with metastases

Megacystis Microcolon Intestinal Hypoperistalsis Syndrome

Megalencephaly Capillary Malformation Syndrome 

Menkes Disease – Classic or Infantile Onset Form

Merkel Cell Carcinoma – with metastases 

Merosin Deficient Congenital Muscular Dystrophy

Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (MLD) – Late Infantile

Mitral Valve Atresia 

Mixed Dementias 

MPS I, formerly known as Hurler Syndrome 

MPS II, formerly known as Hunter Syndrome 

MPS III, formerly known as Sanfilippo Syndrome 

Mucosal Malignant Melanoma 

Multicentric Castleman Disease 

Multiple System Atrophy 

Myoclonic Epilepsy with Ragged Red Fibers Syndrome 

Neonatal Adrenoleukodystrophy 

Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis 

Neurodegeneration with Brain Iron Accumulation – Types 1 and 2 

NFU-1 Mitochondrial Disease

Niemann-Pick Disease (NPD) – Type A 

Niemann-Pick Disease-Type C 

Nonketotic Hyperglycinemia

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Obliterative Bronchiolitis 

Ohtahara Syndrome

Oligodendroglioma Brain Cancer- Grade III

Ornithine Transcarbamylase (OTC) Deficiency 

Orthochromatic Leukodystrophy with Pigmented Glia 

Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) – Type II 

Osteosarcoma, formerly known as Bone Cancer – with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable

Ovarian Cancer – with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable

Pallister-Killian Syndrome 

Pancreatic Cancer

Paraneoplastic Pemphigus 

Patau Syndrome (Trisomy 13) 

Pearson Syndrome 

Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease-Classic Form 

Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease-Connatal Form 

Peripheral Nerve Cancer – metastatic or recurrent 

Peritoneal Mesothelioma 

Peritoneal Mucinous Carcinomatosis

Perry Syndrome 

Phelan-McDermid Syndrome

Pleural Mesothelioma 

Pompe Disease – Infantile

Primary Central Nervous System Lymphoma 

Primary Effusion Lymphoma 

Primary Progressive Aphasia

Progressive Bulbar Palsy

Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy 

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

Prostate Cancer – Hormone Refractory Disease – or with visceral metastases 

Pulmonary Atresia 

Pulmonary Kaposi Sarcoma 

Retinopathy of Prematurity – Stage V

Rett (RTT) Syndrome

Revesz Syndrome

Rhabdomyosarcoma 

Rhizomelic Chondrodysplasia Punctata 

Roberts Syndrome

Salivary Cancers 

Sandhoff Disease 

Schindler Disease – Type 1

Seckel Syndrome 

Severe Combined Immunodeficiency – Childhood

Single Ventricle

Sinonasal Cancer 

Sjogren-Larsson Syndrome 

Skin Malignant Melanoma with Metastases

Small Cell Cancer (Large IntestineProstate or Thymus)

Small Cell Cancer of the Female Genital Tract

Small Cell Lung Cancer 

Small Intestine Cancer – with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent

Smith Lemli Opitz Syndrome

Soft Tissue Sarcoma – with distant metastases or recurrent

Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) – Types 0 and 1

Spinal Nerve Root Cancer-metastatic or recurrent 

Spinocerebellar Ataxia

Stiff Person Syndrome 

Stomach Cancer – with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent

Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis

Superficial Siderosis of the Central Nervous System

Tabes Dorsalis 

Tay Sachs Disease – Infantile Type

Tetrasomy 18p

Thanatophoric Dysplasia – Type 1 

Thyroid Cancer

Transplant Coronary Artery Vasculopathy

Tricuspid Atresia 

Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy 

Ureter Cancer – with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent

Usher Syndrome – Type I

Ventricular Assist Device Recipient – Left, Right, or Biventricular 

Walker Warburg Syndrome 

Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome 

Wolman Disease

X-Linked Lymphoproliferative Disease

X-Linked Myotubular Myopathy

Xeroderma Pigmentosum 

Zellweger Syndrome 

From time to time, other medical conditions are added to the list.