When you apply for Social Security disability benefits, there is a good chance the Social Security Administration (SSA) will deny your initial claim.
This doesn’t always mean you’ll be unable to collect benefits. After a denial, you can first ask for a reconsideration. If the SSA still denies your claim, you may then appeal the decision.
At this stage in the process, an administrative law judge (ALJ) will render a final decision on your claim after a disability hearing. Be aware, it can take months or even years to learn of the ALJ’s decision. There is no deadline for when the ALJ has to render a decision for your claim.
This overview will cover the basics of the timeline. It also includes information about factors that can influence how long it takes for an ALJ to issue an approval or denial after a disability hearing.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Decision From An ALJ?
The length of time it takes to get a decision from an ALJ can vary depending on several factors. Often, it takes 2 to 3 months to receive a decision, although the process can take more time or less time depending on the circumstances.
Some people may get a decision within a few months, while others may wait over two years. The SSA has set a goal of issuing a decision within 12 months after holding a hearing.
It’s also worth noting that staff decision writers may have the responsibility of writing the decision after the ALJ has made it. Thus, there may be a gap between when the ALJ makes a decision after your disability hearing and when you actually learn of their decision.
What Can Make The Decision Take Longer?
Factors which can result in an ALJ taking longer than usual to issue a decision include:
- Your location, as the timeline for decisions can vary on a state-by-state basis.
- The backlog of cases at the office.
- The ALJ might need more evidence before they can make a decision about your case. This may result in the need for a supplemental hearing.
- The overall complexity of your case.
How Can I Speed Up An ALJ’s Decision?
You can reduce the wait time for a disability hearing decision by:
- Submitting all the relevant evidence and information as soon as possible and ensuring that the case is fully developed before the hearing.
- During your disability hearing, answering every question thoroughly and honestly without exaggerating or lying about your condition, symptoms, work history, or any other relevant details.
- Preparing for your disability hearing with the assistance of a lawyer.
- Coordinating with a reliable witness who can testify that you are unable to work due to your condition.
Get Help With Your Disability Benefits Claim
Because only one-third of claims for SSDI benefits receive initial approvals, it’s likely you may need to appeal the SSA’s decision regarding your claim.
Although no one can promise you will eventually receive an approval, you may be able to speed up the process of receiving a decision from the ALJ with assistance from a legal professional who can help navigate the process.