Important: We updated this article in February 2023 with the latest info from the SSA. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Social Security Administration (SSA) closed many local offices from March 2020 until spring of 2022. Shutting down in-person services also limited the agency’s ability to conduct Social Security disability appeal hearings. Then, for about six months, the agency put all appeals hearings on court calendars on hold. Finally, the SSA began offering video hearings for people to plead their case before a judge remotely in late 2020. Learn how this might impact your Social Security disability appeal and see average wait times for all 50 states below.
How Pandemic Closings Impacted Social Security Disability Appeal Wait Times
A recent Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Report shows how pandemic closings affected people seeking SSD appeals hearings. While the SSA began offering remote Social Security disability appeal hearings in late 2020, they weren’t available to everyone. Per this report, 20,000-30,000 people declined a remote hearing option between fall 2020 and March 2022.
As you can imagine, this caused court cases to back up quite a bit. Demand for new, in-person hearing dates rose even higher. For this reason, it became much harder to get cases scheduled on court dockets nationwide. According to the latest SSA performance report, Social Security disability appeal hearings fell 43% between 2019 and 2021. Now, the agency (and state-level judges) have a lot of catching up to do!
So, what does that mean for you? Here’s the current Social Security disability appeal timeline for most people seeking benefits:
- 7 months from your filing date to review your first SSD claim.
- Another 6 months to process your first appeal (i.e., your “Request for Reconsideration“).
- Appeal again, and you’ll wait 14 months for your Social Security disability appeal hearing date on the court’s calendar.
- 459 days is the average case-processing time for people at the appeals hearing stage as of December 2022.
Important: Follow these tips to make your own hearing go smoothly and improve your odds of success!
Disability Appeal Hearing Wait Times In All 50 States
Curious about your own state’s average Social Security disability appeal wait time? Or maybe you want to know your chances of a local judge granting you SSD benefits. According to the latest SSA data, here’s what to expect during the next 12 months:
- 45% of claimants win benefits after pleading their case before a judge.
- 81% of people have a disability lawyer at their hearings.
- 34% are denied disability during their appeals hearing.
- Judges dismiss 21% of cases at this stage (typically, because an applicant passed away or fails to appear).
- Hawaii has the highest approval rates for those at the Social Security disability appeal hearing stage (58%).
- California has the longest average wait for court dates (19 months).
- Rhode Island has the lowest approval rates for Social Security disability appeals (19%).
- New Hampshire has the shortest wait for appeals hearings at just 7 months.
Our interactive map below shows average wait times in all 50 states as of December 2022.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Want your Social Security disability appeal heard faster? We can connect you with a lawyer who may be able to speed things up for you. Having an attorney file your claim makes you nearly 3x more likely to get benefits. Those who file with expert help through our website typically qualify for $13,000+ in back pay as well as monthly benefits.
All lawyers in our network charge nothing for helping you unless you get a cash settlement. In other words, if the SSA won’t award you benefits, you pay the lawyer $0. And if a lawyer does help you win, then you’ll only pay one small fee.
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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.