If you've been waiting more than a couple of months for a Social Security decision, you should check the status of your claim. You can call your local Social Security office to speak to a disability claims representative to check on the status. A claims rep can usually provide a general update on your case, as to where it is in the process, but will not be able to give you much detail on when a decision will be handed down or whether there are any obstacles holding it up.
The same is true for checking the status of your disability case online (go to secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/IAPS/applicationStatus; you'll need a confirmation/number password given to you by the SSA).
Here are some better ways to check the status of your case, depending on what stage your application is at.
Initial Claim or Reconsideration (First Appeal)
For cases pending at the initial claim level (you just filed an application) and the reconsideration level (you filed a first-level appeal), it is often more productive for you to speak directly with the disability examiner who is evaluating your claim. Your disability examiner works at a state agency called Disability Determination Services (DDS), not the actual Social Security Administration (SSA). Disability examiners are typically easy to reach by phone, and you can obtain the telephone number for your local DDS from your local Social Security office. There is at least one DDS office in each state; here is a list of the DDS offices in all states.
When you call the DDS, state that you are calling for the status of your case. Typically, the person who answers the phone will ask you for your Social Security number and then connect you with your examiner, who can quickly tell you whether or not your case is pending. (If your case has been decided, the examiner can tell you this, but won't be able to tell you whether you will be approved -- the SSA office makes the final decision.) If your case is still pending, ask the examiner (politely) if there is anything you can do to help expedite your claim.
ALJ Hearing (Second Appeal)
For disability claimants who have submitted a request for hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), your claim is no longer with the DDS; it has gone back to the SSA where it awaits a hearing date.
If your case is at the hearing level, meaning that you have been
denied on a reconsideration appeal and have filed a request for hearing
before an administrative law judge, you can contact the Social Security
office where you filed your claim to check the status of your hearing request, but in most instances, this will not be productive.
Why? Because the hearing office, the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR, formerly known as the Office of Hearings and Appeals, or OHA), functions independently and autonomously, and Social Security office personnel will typically have little information available as to the status of a hearing request. (Usually, if you call your Social Security field office to make a hearing status call, you will get a response similar to "We haven't heard anything.") It is usually much more productive to make a status call on a hearing request to the hearing office itself. You can find phone numbers to the many regional hearing offices at ODAR's website at www.ssa.gov/appeals/ho_locator.html.
If You Have a Lawyer or Representative
Disability claimants who are represented by a disability lawyer or non-lawyer social security disability advocate can allow their representatives to make these calls on their behalf. Your representative should periodically check the status of your case for you, both for the purpose of staying up-to-date on the case and also to avoid missing deadlines.
Having said that, if your lawyer or disability representative can't give you an update and you haven't heard anything in a while, you should protect yourself by also checking on your case yourself.