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Disability benefit decision appeals time

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Disability claimants who disagree with the determination made by Social Security and the State Disability Determination Services, may request a hearing with an administrative law judge. Social Security typically receives between 20,000 and 40,000 hearing requests monthly.  Historically, wait times for a hearing decision could be over a year. We are working to reduce the time it takes for claimants to receive a hearing decision. 

The SecurityStat process

  • Set a strategic goal.

    Conduct disability determination appeal hearings and issue decisions within an end of year monthly (September) average processing time of 270 days in fiscal years 2024 and 2025.

  • Drive leading actions.

    • Promote virtual hearings, so we can keep pace with demand and make decisions quickly.
    • Adopt software that speeds up medical reviews.
    • Develop technology to speed up decision writing.
  • Track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) over time.

    • Hearing decision average wait time
    • Hearings pending

Hearing decision average wait time

7-year trend

Line chart showing hearing decision wait times.  Beginning in 2018, average processing time was nearly 600 days, there is then a downward trend to 326 days in 2021, where wait times increase again to as high as 450 by 2023.

This chart shows how many days on average our customers waited for a hearing decision from our hearing offices over the last 7 fiscal years. Over the past several fiscal years, Congress appropriated dedicated funding to improve the customer experience for individuals who file a hearing request. In fiscal year 2023, we experienced a temporary increase in the average processing time as we prioritized individuals waiting the longest and those who chose to wait for an in-person hearing rather than accepting a video or telephone hearing when our hearing offices were closed to the public during the pandemic.

October 2023 to Present

Line chart of hearing decision average wait times for the first 7 months of fiscal year 2024.  Average wait times have steadily decreased this fiscal year from 370 days in October to 337 days in April.

This chart shows the average hearing processing times at our hearing offices for each month this fiscal year. 

Current average hearing office time to decision

Heat map of the United States and Puerto Rico showing the average hearing wait times. The majority of hearing offices have an average wait time less than 371 days, and 4 hearing offices have a wait time higher than 555 days.

This map shows the average processing time of each hearing office as of the previous month.

Hearings pending

By fiscal year and monthly

Bar chart showing hearings pending end of year results for fiscal years 2016 through 2023 and monthly results for fiscal year 2024 October through April.  The fiscal year 2016 hearing pending total was about 1.1 million and it reduces to just under 322,000 at the end of fiscal year 2023.  As of the close of April in fiscal year 2024, the hearings pending decreased to 286,836 from 320,861 in October of fiscal year 2024.

This chart shows the number of hearing decisions pending by year for fiscal years 2017 through 2023, followed by the months of fiscal year 2024. We experienced a backlog of cases in fiscal year 2017 and gradually reduced our pending cases with the support of dedicated funding from Congress. Our hearings pending dropped below 300,000 in March 2024, marking a 30-year low.

Last updated on May 3, 2024.