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Disability application process

How Long Does a Disability Appeal Take in 2024?

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Photo of Derek Silva — Atticus Author
Derek Silva
Data Journalist and Content Lead
Published March 18, 2024
4 min read
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About 70% of initial SSDI and SSI applications are denied, but don’t give up because you can appeal the denial. Your odds of approval can even increase after a couple of rounds of appeal. But appeals do take months or years to complete.

Looking at the whole process, as of early 2024 it takes an average of 21.8 months from the time someone first applies for disability until they get a final decision. Almost 16 months of that time is just for appeals. Your exact wait depends on where you live, but the process takes time.

To give an idea of how long you may wait, Atticus analyzed data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to find the average wait times for each stage of the appeal process.

The stages of appeal for disability benefits

As of January 2024, most people get an initial SSDI or SSI decision in four to six months. If your application is denied, you have 60 days to appeal. There are four possible stages of appeal, though most applicants only go through two.

  1. Reconsideration: With a reconsideration, the SSA looks over your application again to see if it made any mistakes. Most reconsiderations end with denial, so you’ll need to move to the next appeal stage.

  2. Court hearing: The disability hearing is a chance to make your case in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ), who has the authority to deny or approve your application. More than half of hearings end with approval and your chances are three times higher if you have a disability lawyer. This is the final appeal stage for most applicants.

  3. Social Security Appeals Council: The council can choose to review the ALJ’s decision and send your claim back for another hearing. Your odds are low and even if the council does review your claim, it will likely go back to the same judge who denied your claim.

  4. Federal district court: You can file a civil suit requesting review of the SSA’s decision. Your chances for success aren’t high and not many disability lawyers will take your case.

How long a disability appeal takes

On average, it takes people about 16 months (almost a year and a half) from the time they appeal a disability denial until they get a final decision. But this number can vary pretty widely based on details like your specific claim and which state is handling your hearing.

Overall, it takes most disability applicants an average of 21.8 months (one year and eight months) to get approved and start receiving benefits. This amount of time encompasses:

  • The initial decision

  • Your reconsideration

  • Waiting for a hearing

  • Receiving a decision from the judge (which takes about two months)

It’s also unlikely that your appeal will take longer because you have a lawyer. It’s a common concern that disability lawyers drag out the process, but that isn’t usually the case. (Here’s more on what a lawyer actually does.)

How long does it take to get a reconsideration decision?

If you’ve appealed for a reconsideration after an initial denial, the average time to receive this decision is 6.1 months, or approximately 184 days. (That's the most recent SSA estimate as of January 2024.)

Your wait may be longer, though. SSA processing times have been increasing steadily over time.

Improve your chances of winning at reconsideration

There are a few ways to increase your chances of winning at this stage. Writing an appeal letter, providing new medical documentation, and getting a letter from your doctor could all help.

Unfortunately, though, most reconsiderations are still not approved. If yours is denied, that’s when you move on to the third step in the process — a court hearing that happens in court in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ).

Read more about how to win disability at reconsideration.

The average wait time for a disability hearing

The average wait time to get a disability hearing is 9.6 months as of early 2024. Your wait will vary depending on where you live, though.

In Arkansas, for example, the wait time at the Fort Smith hearing office is 7 months, while the average wait time for the Little Rock office is 12 months. In Ohio, all offices have a wait time ranging from seven to 10 months.

After your hearing, you’ll also have to wait for a decision from the judge. While that could happen immediately, it usually takes an additional 1-3 months.

How long it takes to get a disability hearing in every state

The table below shows the average wait times to get an SSDI or SSI hearing as of early 2024. Most states have multiple hearing offices (find your local SSA office) so exact wait times vary. Alaska, Idaho, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming don’t currently have any SSA hearing offices.


Average wait to get a hearing


6.5 months


no hearing data


8.3 months


9.5 months


11.6 months


9 months


7.3 months


13 months


7.6 months


9 months


18 months


no hearing data


8.9 months


7.5 months


10 months


8 months


7.4 months


10.4 months


10 months


14 months


10 months


7.7 months


8.5 months


7 months


10.5 months


12 months


8 months


11.5 months

New Hampshire

9 months

New Jersey

11 months

New Mexico

13 months

New York

9.7 months

North Carolina

8.5 months

North Dakota

9 months


8.3 months


10 months


11.8 months


10.4 months

Puerto Rico

15.8 months

Rhode Island

7.5 months

South Carolina

8.7 months

South Dakota

no hearing data


7 months


7.9 months


10 months


no hearing data


12.8 months


11.7 months

West Virginia

9.8 months


7.3 months


no hearing data

Related: How to Answer a Disability Judge’s Questions

Can you speed up the appeal process?

Unfortunately, there’s really nothing you can do to speed up the disability application or appeals. Most of the process is simply waiting for the SSA to give you a decision. What you can do is prevent any additional delays:

  • File your appeals as quickly as possible.

  • File your appeals properly (don’t skip any forms or any questions on the forms).

  • Quickly respond to requests or notices from the SSA.

If you do get approved for disability benefits, you’ll at least receive back pay — a lump sum payment that covers the time when you should’ve been receiving benefits, but weren’t because you had to go through appeals.

What are my chances of winning a disability appeal?

SSDI and SSI approval rates vary throughout the process. In 2022, these were the disability approval rates at different stages:

  • Initial application — 35% medical approval rate

  • Reconsideration (first appeal stage) — 13% approval rate

  • Court hearing with ALJ (second appeal stage) — 54% approval rate

Disability approval rates also vary by state, ranging from a low of 22% in Hawaii to a high of 54% in New Mexico. Within a state, rates do vary by hearing office (most states have multiple hearing offices).

Learn more about your odds of winning an SSI or SSDI appeal.

Maximize your odds of winning an appeal.

Get help winning your appeal

The best thing you can do to increase your chances of winning your appeal is to get a disability lawyer. A lawyer can help you file your appeals on time and answer all of your questions. If your claim goes to a court hearing, they can represent you and help make the best possible case to the judge.

Your chances of winning a disability hearing with a lawyer are three times higher than your chance of winning without one. That’s one reason that 83% of people have a lawyer by the hearing stage.

You also won’t have to pay your lawyer unless you win benefits, at which point they’ll receive a one-time payment that comes out of your back pay.

Atticus can help you find an experienced lawyer who will treat your case as a priority. Get started with a short questionnaire about your situation and where you are in the process. If it looks like a lawyer could help, we’ll reach out to learn more and match you with an experienced attorney. (Getting matched is free and you don’t need to work with our lawyers if you don’t want to.)

Triple your chances of getting approved. Get matched with a top disability lawyer today.

Frequently asked questions about disability appeals

Can you appeal if your SSI or SSDI claim is denied?

Yes, you can appeal if your disability benefits claim is denied. There are two types of denials: technical and medical. Technical denials are harder to appeal than medical denials, but both kinds of denials can be appealed. Learn more about denial letters.

What’s the deadline to file a disability appeal?

You have 60 days to file an appeal, starting from the day you receive your denial letter. The SSA assumes that you will receive your denial letter five days after it was mailed. You may be able to request longer to appeal, but it’s uncommon. If you miss this window, you’ll have to start your application all over again — so make sure you submit your appeal for reconsideration on time.

How long does a disability appeal take?

Based on SSA data, a disability appeal takes an average of 22 months. That’s just under two years from the time you appeal an initial denial until you get a final decision. Getting an initial SSDI or SSI decision takes about six months, on average.

How long does a disability appeal take with a lawyer?

Your disability appeal likely won’t take much or any longer with a lawyer. If you signed with your lawyer right before your hearing, they may request a delay so they have time to go over your case and prepare for your hearing. Otherwise, having a disability lawyer won’t make your case take longer.

How long does an SSDI reconsideration appeal take?

As of early 2024, the most recent data from the SSA shows that it takes an average of about six months to get a decision on a reconsideration. For more help, we’ve covered some tips for winning at reconsideration.

How long does it take to get a disability hearing?

As of early 2024, the average wait time for a disability hearing is 9.6 months, though the average wait at your local SSA hearing office could range from eight months to three years.

What’s the wait time for a disability hearing decision?

After your disability hearing, you should expect to wait an additional 1-3 months to get the judge’s decision. Though you could get a decision sooner. In some cases, you could even get a decision right after your hearing.

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Photo of Derek Silva — Atticus Author

Derek Silva

Data Journalist and Content Lead

Derek is a writer and editor who has spent years covering disability benefits, taxes, and personal finances. He loves using data to tell stories, with his work being covered by Yahoo Finance, MSN, Business Insider, and CNBC, among others. Derek has previously worked for SmartAsset and Policygenius.
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