How Long Does It Take To Process SSDI or SSI?

It is difficult to say exactly how long it will take to process a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

The Social Security Administration (SSA) isn’t bound by a deadline, so time frames can vary from two months to two years. In some cases, it can stretch even longer when a claim advances to higher levels of appeal.

At The Attorney Injury Group, our Massachusetts disability attorneys work to make the process as streamlined as possible for our clients. We know many people may be deterred by the red tape. When we accept a case, it is our team that takes on the bureaucracy. We can usually cut through it faster than most because we have navigated it many times before.

Some of the factors that can affect the timely progression of a claim include:

  • The state in which you live.
  • The quick response of doctors and claimants in providing key medical records.
  • Whether a case is at the initial application level or has been appealed.
  • Whether the case may have been formally expedited, through a Compassionate Allowance, Quick Disability Determination, Presumptive Disability, Dire Need, Military Service or Terminal Illness.

Your attorney can help identify potential avenues that could hasten the process, but it’s going to depend on your individual circumstances. Even when such remedies aren’t available, we can assist in directing clients to resources that can help while they await a decision.

Boston Field Office Wait Times

An estimated 1.5 million residents in Massachusetts receive more than $1.5 billion monthly in SSDI and SSI benefits.

In cases where an initial claim has been denied, applicants can – and usually should – file an appeal. That’s because the majority of claims are rejected in that first round and also during the reconsideration process. However, the approval rating rises substantially upon appeal. That’s when all the relevant medical, financial and occupational evidence can be carefully sifted by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

However, because of the complexity of these cases, just getting a foot in the door can take a while.

The average wait time in Boston – from the time a request for hearing is filed until the hearing is held before the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review – is 12 months, according to SSA data.

That sounds like a lot, but in comparison to the time it takes at other offices around the country, particularly those in larger cities, it’s fairly quick. Here is a breakdown of other estimated wait times:

  • Brooklyn, NY – 20 months
  • Baltimore, MD – 19 months
  • Cincinnati, OH – 20 months
  • Dallas, TX – 15 months
  • Los Angeles West, CA – 15 months
  • Miami, FL – 21 months
  • Milwaukee, WI – 20 months
  • Chicago, IL – 17 months
  • San Diego, CA – 15 months
  • Spokane, WA – 20 months
  • Tucson, AZ – 17 months

No matter where you are, there is going to be a wait. But field offices can vary substantially in their performance. The fastest wait time nationally is in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and the wait time there is still eight months.

Much of it depends on the caseload of the field office. In Massachusetts, there are 30 Social Security Field Offices, two Disability Determination Service (DDS) centers and three locations for the Office of Disability Review and Adjudication (ODRA).

In Fiscal Year 2015, the ODRA in Massachusetts had the following caseloads:

  • Boston – 5,127 receipts, 5,446 dispositions, 5211 cases pending, 388 days average processing time
  • Lawrence – 3,130 receipts, 3,118 dispositions, 3,847 cases pending, 512 days average processing time
  • Springfield – 3,648 receipts, 3,269 dispositions, 3,347 cases pending, 339 days average processing time

Unless your case qualifies for an expedited decision, you can expect in general to wait a year or more.

If the case is pulled for a Quality Assurance Review, it may actually take longer. These reviews are initiated randomly to ensure DDS employees (who are state workers) are making decisions that adhere to federal guidelines. A claim that is selected for review may take several months longer.

Expedited Decisions

There are some cases in which a claim may be expedited. Some examples include:

  • Applicants who are terminally ill
  • Applicants whose condition qualifies for a Compassionate Allowance
  • Applicants for SSI who have a condition for which the disability finding is presumptive
  • Applicants who are in dire need of assistance
  • Applicants who are on active military duty