The amount of time it takes for an application to be approved or denied varies, depending on the level of the process at which the award is made. In 2009, there were 2,816,244 applications for SSDI. As of March 31, 2007, the number of pending applications (or “backlog”) was 1,463,153. Experts have asserted that this backlog is being caused by the increase in applicants, the increase in retiring SSA workers, the inability of the SSA to replace the retiring workers and budget limitations.
The Social Security Administration estimates that the initial benefits application will take 90 to 120 days, but in practice filings can take up to eight months to complete. The appeals process for denied filings can likewise take 90 days to well over a year to get a hearing, depending on caseloads. At the initial application level the claim actually takes as long as it takes to get medical treating sources to respond with sufficient medical evidence to document the disability claim.
In an attempt to speed up the application process, beginning in August 2006, the SSA implemented changes to the application process in the six-state New England region, on a trial basis. On December 1, 2007, the SSA implemented the program nationwide.