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Disability determination processing time

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Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income ("disability") benefits provide essential income for people with disabilities. We carefully review medical and work history to determine if someone’s eligible for disability benefits.

There are 3 major steps in the initial disability claims process:

  • Step 1: Field office checks to see if the customer meets basic non-medical requirements.
  • Step 2: State Disability Determination Services (DDS) checks to see if the customer’s medical condition meets the disability requirements.
  • Step 3: Field office approves or denies the claim and issues the decision letter.

The first and third steps occur at our field offices. The second and more detailed step occurs at the state level. Every state operates a DDS office funded by Social Security.

The SecurityStat process

  • Set a strategic goal.

    Process initial disability claims within approximately 7 months (215 days) by the end of fiscal year 2025.

    • On average, field offices should take a combined total of 19 days to do two things: first, to check the non-medical requirements, and then, after the DDS review, to make a decision.
    • DDS should complete its medical review within an average processing time of 180 days.
  • Drive leading actions.

    • Add 400 more disability examiners nationwide.
    • Provide disability examiners with improved technology to gather and review medical evidence.
    • Encourage more customers to use SSA.gov to free up field office staff to help people who need more personalized assistance.
  • Track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) over time.

    • Disability determination average processing times 

Disability determination average processing times

7-year trend

Stacked area chart showing the average number of days it takes to make initial disability determinations. The chart shows an increase in the processing times from 2017 to 2023.

This chart shows the average number of days it’s taken to process disability applications over the past 7 years. “Other” includes the average amount of time per claim spent in other steps within the application process that are not captured in steps 1, 2, and 3, such as quality review or transit time. Average processing times have increased since fiscal year 2020 as our state DDS offices have faced challenges maintaining staff.  Average processing times further increased in fiscal year 2023 as we began focusing on claims from individuals who have waited the longest for a disability decision. Improving the time it takes a customer to receive an initial disability determination is also an Agency Priority Goal. View our action plan and quarterly updates at performance.gov.

October 2023 to Present

Stacked area chart showing the average number of days it takes to make initial disability determinations for fiscal year 2024.  The chart shows a slight increase in time in fiscal year 2024 with processing times averaging at about 232 days in both March and April.

This chart shows the average number of days it’s taken to process disability applications each month of this fiscal year.

Field office processing times, October 2023 to Present (Steps 1 and 3)

Heat map of the United States and territories showing field office geographies and their average initial disability claims processing time for fiscal year 2024.  The majority of the areas have processing times of 19 days or less with mostly rural areas having processing times of 25 days or more.

This map shows the average number of days it’s taken field offices to perform this work so far this fiscal year.

State DDS processing times, October 2023 to Present (Step 2)

Heat map of the United States and territories showing state Disability Determination Services.  Most states and territories process initial disability determinations on average in less than 180 days with Southeastern states, some of the Rocky Mountains, and other select states on average take more than 200 days.

The time it takes to process disability claims varies from state to state due to a variety of circumstances, like differences in staffing. This map shows the average number of days for each state to make an initial disability determination.

Last updated on May 3, 2024.