How Long Will It Take for a Judge's Decision and How Long Before Benefits Start?


I just had my disability hearing and I thought it went well. When will I get a decision, and assuming I'm approved for benefits, when will they start?


How long will it take to get a decision from a judge once you've already had your disability hearing? There is no standard amount of time.  If you're represented, the person handling your case may have a fairly good handle on how long a particular judge normally takes to get a decision out. But even then it is just guesswork.

At one hearing office, the commonly stated estimate (stated by the hearing office, that is) is that an ALJ's decision will take approximately six weeks to receive. Unfortunately, this estimate and reality are often far apart from each other.

If you really want to get a handle on how long your hearing decision will take, simply call the hearing office and speak with a staff member. Just keep this in mind: anything they tell you should be ingested with several grains of salt.

Regarding how long your benefits will take to commence...this is even more nebulous.  If you are approved for benefits, your file will be sent by the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) to a payment processing center. There, your monthly benefits will be calculated, as well as the back payments you are due.  How long a case stays at a payment center is a wild card variable and is entirely dependent on the workload that a payment center has to deal with.

However, having said this, some claimants actually receive their benefits on time, as indicated by their notice of award letter (this is the document that spells out a claimant's benefit amounts as well as the delivery date for benefit receipt). And some claimants will even find that a large backpayment has been deposited to a checking account before a notice of award letter has even been received.  

Claimants who do not receive their benefits according to the distribution date cited in their notice of award should contact their local Social Security office.

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