How to Wait for a Disability Decision

Art: Robin Mead

After you first apply for disability, you will wait about three to six months before you get a decision. Here’s some great things you can do and some interesting things that may happen while you are waiting:

Improve Your Application

This is one the biggest regrets our readers report: Assuming that their lawyer or doctor would do everything that needed to be done for their application to get approved. While some people do get approved this way, most lawyers will be honest and tell you upfront that they will usually take 2-3 years. If your goal is to get approved more quickly, there are many things you can do to help your chances. (If you’ve already gotten denied and you are waiting for a hearing, don’t read this page, look here instead).

Collect Your Medical Records

It is exceedingly helpful to collect and read all your medical records and treatment notes (not visit summaries and not what appears online). If there is a problem with your records you want to know now. In most cases, you cannot rely on your lawyer to read your records at this point. (Many lawyers wait two years before collecting and reading all your records).

Check Your Social Security File

It’s a great idea to check in with your disability examiner and see what records she is still missing. Make sure she has each important document – especially letters and RFC forms. If you get any new important tests or procedures done, let her know and keep following up until you are certain she has everything. (Once again, do not leave this to your lawyer. Your lawyer does not have electronic access to your file at this point, so she has no way of knowing if anything was lost or missing).

What Happens Next

While you are waiting, any of these things may happen to you: You may get an Adult Function Report or Activities of Daily Living Questionnaire, you may get sent to a Social Security doctor, your contact person may get sent a Third Party form, or you may get a phone call from your Disability Examiner. Above is a timeline of what happens when and how to handle each step.

Make Your Life a Little Easier

Sleepy Girl tips for a (slightly) easier life while you are applying.


Click here if you run into a problem with your application

Check your date last insured

If you are applying for SSDI, you may wish to check your Date Last Insured. If it is coming up soon, you want to do everything possible to get the best medical evidence you can before that day arrives.

Make Plans for Your Student Loans

If you have federal student loans, you have some options. Look into this now, so you don’t have to worry about your backpay being garnished.

Tricky Questions

Questions that may come up at the doctor’s office while you are waiting for you are applying.

Speed Up the Process

Ways to get a faster decision.

Learn a little about SSI

If you are applying for SSI, the way you are living right now can make your backpay check go up or down.

Cryptic Love Notes from Social Security

🌷 If you have not already done so you may wish to create an online account, so Social Security can send you enigmatic little messages.

🌷 At some point you may notice that your online account says SSI is denied but SSDI is still processing. Or you may get a letter saying something like this. Or it may say it the other way around. Sometimes this is true, sometimes not. Sometimes it is a big deal, sometimes not. Don’t panic just yet. Learn more.

🌷 You may get a message that says “a medical decision has been made.” This means they made a decision but they won’t tell you if it is a denial or an approval. Stay tuned. They will let you know more soon.

🌷 You may get a message that says they are reviewing your case for “processing accuracy.” This means your case was randomly selected for quality review where, most of the time, nothing happens. Stay tuned.

🌷 You may get a message that you were approved medically but they need to do a “non-medical review.” This is good news. It means you were approved. They will be contacting you to do a financial interview for SSI.

The Decision!

🌷 If you get a decision, make sure it says a medical decision. If it is not a medical decision read this.

🌷 They will send you your decision by mail. Sometimes it will appear first on your online account. Sometimes someone is willing to tell you over the phone (but usually not).

🌷 If you were approved take a look here: Everything No One Ever Tells You After You Get Approved

🌷 If you were not approved (yet!) take a look here: How to Be Reconsidered or How to Appeal

What Do You Think? 

Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. 

Updated May 2018. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: 

24 thoughts on “How to Wait for a Disability Decision”

  1. Lily I am so frustrated. Of course I was denied at my first go round. I am using ALLSUP, but they don’t seem to be working hard. They wait to hear from ddd’s, but never send them info. Allsup says SSDI will request info if they need it, but they don’t request functional or medical source statements from doctors, which I have gotten. Allsup says they don’t request medical records on my behalf unless I go to the hearing stage. Yet, rep from ALLSUP says I am not supposed to talk to SSDI people, only them. Should I be sending all paperwork to SSDI rep myself? Seems to me ALLSUP is trying to drag it out to get a bigger paayout. Am I wrong on this?


    1. Hi Kimberly,

      So sorry to hear you are dealing with this.

      It is great that you are on top of everything and getting statements from your docs.

      What stage are you at now? Are you waiting for a hearing? New application decision? Or a reconsideration decision?



  2. Hi I am at the reconsideration stage. SSDI got the request for that on June 12. Since, I messaged you last, I had Allsup send me the ADL questionnaire that I completed by them on phone on 6/22. There are a few major mistakes on it about chores that I do around the house.

    I have had some major medical updates that I sent to ALLSUP. I am praying they are sending them directly to the DDS. I had X-rays and an MRI done of my neck and got the results from my new orthopedist on 7/18. I have moderate to severe osteoarthritis on both sides, two herniated discs, pinched nerves, degenerative discs and some stenosis. This explains my pain and why it is so difficult for me to do thins with my arms. I have problems with my lower back too, but when I called the orthopedist group, I had to choose which doctor to see for one part of my body and I chose neck. Now, I’m thinking I should see someone for my whole spine. I have physical therapy on 7/24. Do you thing the PT report will be enough or should I get an MRI of my whole spine? Is this too much information for me to share on here?


    1. Thanks for the update Kimberly.

      That is smart of you to get a copy of your ADL report. I didn’t realize that Allsup filled that out for people. I’m curious how it worked – they interviewed you on the phone and then completed it for you?

      I can’t really know what is best for your doctor visits. Usually Social Security will give more weight to records from a doctor than a physical therapist. However, if you already have MRI report that shows a clear problem, you may not need another one.

      Here’s how you can check your social security file to see what records they do and don’t have. ❤


  3. Hey Sleepygirl ! I had surgery 10 years ago Complete Torn ACL repair now 10 years later I’m unable to work because of my Osteoarthritis and “hip drop”. I was eligible for disability under Title II act. Do you think I’m medically eligible, I have good hopes..


  4. Hello, I have been in the SSDI process since April of 2014 after breaking my back at work. I had my ALJ hearing on August 29th 2017 and have been anxiously awaiting a decision since then. I just checked online, and it says “status: processing”. Does this mean anything (at writers, they are computing benefits, etc) or is it just another way of saying pending? Thank you and happy holidays!


  5. Am I reading above correct if you receive a message medical decision has been made usually favorable.
    I took a fce about 2 weeks ago and right after fce the message appeared
    My fce showed less than sedentary work.


  6. This is what my online ssa says

    Dec 22

    Appeal Under Review

    A medical decision has been made and we are working to process your decision. A Social Security Representative may contact you directly if we need any additional documents or information.

    I’m at the reconsideration stage Ssdi only

    I called the 800 number on Jan 2 waited on hold for an hour then spoke to a nice man who asked me my social address mother’s maden name then he typed for a while then he told me I am in fact approved.. I said approved and he said yes fully approved and I should be getting a letter so I got off the phone with him and waited no letter yet…then on Jan 23rd I called again waited on hold for an hour and spoke to another nice guy and he asked the same questions then said I was approved on dec 22 and he was going to send a message to my local social security office to send out a letter immediately I asked him is anything wrong and he said no that it just takes time some times I have terrible ocd and depression I anxiously wait
    Any insight?


    1. Usually if they tell you approved you are.

      Sometimes things get sent to quality review, but it usually just slows things down without changing anything.

      You could try contacting your local office and asking to speak to a supervisor about the delay. Or contacting your congressperson’s office and asking them to inquire for you. I hope it goes well.


  7. Hello Sleepygirl. I initially applied for ssi by myself in October of 2016. I got denied both times after seeking an attorney for my reconsideration. I had my first court date in October of 2017. I checked online account and saw that under SSDI its says Appeal Under Review

    A medical decision has been made and we are working to process your decision. A Social Security Representative may contact you or your appointed representative directly if we need any additional documents or information.

    And so SSI is states that: A Request for your Appeal for a hearing:
    SSI (disability) has been denied.

    It does not say for medical reasons at all on my SSI decision. I haven’t got my SSDI decision updated yet on the site. I’ve been told if I am denied for ssi then I will be denied for ssdi. But could it be that my SSDI would be more. I was still receiving wages for two months after leaving my job, for September and October of 2016. Not to mention I did taxes for 2016 taxes and received a large amount in my refund. Could these factors hinder my decision for SSI because I am what you call poor.n Or does this sound like my ssdi will be denied too? I had an attorney at my hearing and she said it sounds promising.


    1. I’m sorry I don’t know the answer to this. You might be able to find out more by calling. It will probably update more within the next few days.

      If they did a financial interview when you first applied, it is possible that you had too much wages at that time, and that is why it says denied.

      If they never asked you financial questions, then it is more likely to be a medical denial.

      I am keeping my fingers crossed and hope it is a good outcome for you.


      1. Hey I got the message my application was pulled for quality process or something what’s does that mean an am I approved? Do u see cases like this get approved


  8. Hello Sleepy girl, I am waiting on the decision after a hearing with an alj. I was wondering when I shhould apply for ssi. After I find out if I got ssdi? Also, when should I get an acct at social security to check on my status? Can I do that now even though I don’t know if I am approved? Sorry for all the questions


    1. Hi April,

      You can create an online account any time. Yes, you can do that now.

      For SSI, you may have already applied without realizing it. You can check with your lawyer or call SSA or check your account online to see if you have an SSI application also pending.


  9. Under SSI i have been denied, but under SSD the message says ” A medical decision has been made and we are working to process your benefit application. A Social Security Representative may contact you directly if we need any additional documents or information.

    What exactly does this mean? Do you think it is a good or bad sign?

    Thank you!


    1. Hi Kim,

      I just reread the message. The SSI denial could be a medical denial or a financial one. If it is a financial denial, that would have no impact on your SSDI case. If it’s a medical denial, then both would be denied. If it doesn’t give you more information, you may be able to call them and see if they can tell you what kind of denial it was.


  10. My wife has lupus, fibromyalgia and RA with 7 years worth of specialist medical records to back up her diagnoses. She finally lost the reasonable ability to work at the beginning of this year. She applied on 1/18 and a medical decision was made 4/17/18, we just don’t know what that decision is.


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