Why Do Disability Claims Take So Long?

If it seems like disability claims take a long time, it’s because it’s true. The average disability claim takes 200 days. When you’re waiting for a decision on your application, you may wonder why disability claims are taking so long.

There may be several reasons why disability claims take a long time. Some of these factors are not in your control – like a high number of applications and administrative budget cuts. Other things, like an incomplete application or missing medical evidence, are things that you can avoid with the help of a disability lawyer.

Pekas Smith: Arizona Disability Attorneys explain why disability claims take so long.

How Long Do Disability Claims Take?

According to Social Security, a disability claim takes 3-6 months to receive a decision. However, some applications take much longer. The length of time that a disability claim takes varies based on the issues being considered in the claim and the time needed for case review.

What is the average length for an SSDI application?

CNBC reports that the average processing time for an SSDI application is 220 days or slightly more than seven months. Some applications may be denied quickly if an applicant is ineligible for technical reasons. However, when an application reaches medical consideration, approval may take longer.

Is it true that disability applications are taking longer than ever?

If it seems like disability claims are taking longer than ever, you’re right! The average processing time is 220 days. In 2019, an average application took 120 days to process (CNBC). 220 days is the average – that means some cases take even longer.

SSA Disability Reconsideration – Average Processing Time

Year Average Days to Process
2017 101
2018 102.7
2019 108.5
2020 122.2
2021 147.2
2022 182.7

Source: Social Security Administration, Annual Data for Disability Reconsideration.

These figures are not for initial approval. Instead, they represent the average processing time for reconsideration of claims with a medical determination. Still, the average time to process a reconsideration is up about 80% in six years.

Why Are Disability Claims Taking So Long?

Here are some reasons why it may take the Social Security Administration seven months or more to process an application.

Claims are up

Social Security Disability Awards increased 3.34% in 2023 from the year before. That’s a total of 561,585 awards. From 1982-2022, the number of awards has increased, on average, by 1.4% per year.

Resources are down

Even though claims are up, administrative resources are down. The Social Security Administration has faced a 16% reduction in staff since 2011. Their budget has been reduced by 17%. These reductions may mean longer wait times to have someone review a claim.

Medical criteria can be complex

Disability determinations are made based on medical criteria. These criteria are detailed in the Social Security Blue Book Listing of Impairments. The needed medical documentation varies by impairment. These detailed requirements can mean significant time spent reviewing each application.

An application is incomplete or lacks detail

One reason that a disability claim can take so long is that more medical information is needed.

An examiner may ask the applicant to undergo an evaluation. They may be waiting for a care provider to send medical records. Claims examiners make their decisions based on the information they have. If they need more information, it may stall an application.

When you work with our Arizona disability attorneys, you have a team of professionals to assist you in preparing medical evidence. We understand the medical criteria and the information that claims examiners need to see to process your application.

Quality review

The Social Security Administration occasionally conducts quality reviews of application processing. If your application is chosen, it may add time to receive a decision.

Is a fast disability application always a good thing?

The first thing that happens when you apply for disability is a technical review. Someone checks to see if you meet the basic requirements like a long enough work history. 37% of claims are denied at this stage, and this group of applicants receives their denial the fastest. If it seems like your claim is taking a long time, it may be a good thing. If your application passes the technical review, it moves to a medical determination.

  • 37% of claims are technically denied before a medical evaluation occurs
  • 30% of claims are denied for medical reasons
  • 23% of claims are initially approved
  • 5% are approved after reconsideration
  • 5% are approved after an appeal to an administrative law judge

It takes time for a case to move from an initial medical denial to a hearing before an administrative law judge. During this time, the applicant’s medical condition may worsen, and their disability may be more clearly documented. This may be one reason that claims that were previously denied are approved through administrative action.

Addressing Why Disability Claims Take So Long

When you can’t work, you need your benefits as quickly as possible. Disability claims can indeed take a long time. It’s important to acknowledge this and plan as best you can. However, there are things that you may do to move your application through the process as quickly as possible. Pekas Smith: Arizona Disability Attorneys can help.

Submitting a complete application with supporting medical documentation can move your case forward expeditiously. You may avoid delays while examiners seek more information. Our attorneys can prepare the information you need, relying on our knowledge of the evaluating criteria and how it might apply in your specific case.

If you receive a request for more information, our attorneys can help you respond to it quickly.

There are some situations where an applicant may qualify for expedited review or payments while a case is pending because of a presumptive disability. Our attorneys look at all possibilities for you to receive your benefits.

Get Legal Help

Pekas Smith: Arizona Disability Attorneys represent clients to claim disability benefits. We work through your claim diligently, to claim the benefits you deserve with an efficient case process.

Contact us online or at 602.962.2818 today to discuss your case and start now.

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