How Long Does It Take for a Reconsideration for SSI or SSDI?

How long does reconsideration take? Can I go straight to a hearing?

Updated by , Attorney (Seattle University School of Law)

Question: How Long Does It Take to Get a Reconsideration Decision?

I just received a notice of denial on my disability claim from Social Security and found out I need to request a reconsideration review before I can get an ALJ hearing. But I was also told hardly anyone is granted benefits after the reconsideration. How long is this review going to take?

Answer:

You'll likely have a slightly shorter wait to get a reconsideration decision on your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits than you did to receive your original denial.

While you might have waited seven to eight months to hear back from Social Security after you first filed for benefits, you can get your reconsideration decision in four to six months, a little over half the initial wait.

For 2022, the agency averaged 183 days to process reconsideration decisions, up from 147 days in 2021.

Reconsideration is the first level of appeal you'll file when you apply for SSDI or SSI. At this stage, you're asking another claims examiner at your Social Security field office—not the one who made the initial denial—to look at your application again and come to a different decision. There's no way to really know how long your reconsideration appeal will take, but the amount of processing time needed is determined largely by several factors:

  • How backed up the disability examiner is. Staffing and funding issues at your local field office can cause backlogs. Disability applications have risen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this causes an increase in processing time. Additionally, budget cuts result in fewer examiners having to do more work. The examiner assigned to your reconsideration appeal might be overworked with a huge caseload.
  • How long it takes the examiner to get any new medical records. When you file your official reconsideration appeal, Social Security asks you if you've seen the doctor or had any new medical tests since your original application date. Based on the information you provide, the examiner will send for your new treatment notes. If your doctor takes a while to reply, your decision will be delayed. If you didn't mention in your reconsideration appeal that you'd been to the doctor recently, the examiner won't request any new records.
  • Special circumstances. Applicants who've had certain medical traumas, such as a heart attack, might find their case delayed for several months so that Social Security can find out how severe the residual effects of their condition may be.

Unfortunately, you don't have a great chance of having a new claims examiner approve your application on reconsideration. Only about 15% of applicants are awarded benefits at this level. The reasons behind this can be complicated, but often have to do with the agency not receiving much, if any, new medical evidence in the time since the initial denial.

Because your odds are much higher of winning your case—about 50%—after you've had a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, you may have heard that Social Security "denies everyone twice." Most applicants are understandably impatient about having to go through the reconsideration level before requesting a hearing, wondering "What's taking so long?"

You can't skip reconsideration, but you can help speed up the process by filing your reconsideration appeal soon after your initial denial and keeping Social Security up to date about your medical treatment.

Learn more about how long the whole disability process takes or how to start your reconsideration review.

Updated September 6, 2023

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