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Once you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the two Social Security–administered benefits for people with disabilities, it can take months for your claim to be approved or denied.
Wait times for an initial decision on disability claims have increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, from an average of 122 days in the last quarter of 2019 to 169 days in the same period of 2021. That wait can be difficult, especially if you lack other household income or if your health problems are serious enough to potentially shorten your life expectancy.
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The Social Security Administration (SSA) can expedite processing for disability applicants who have certain medical conditions, face especially trying personal circumstances or served in the U.S. military. Even if you don’t fit into one of these “critical case” categories, there are steps you can take to try to speed up your claim, like enlisting the help of an attorney, a professional disability advocate or your member of Congress.
Here are some of the ways you might get a quicker determination of whether you qualify for disability benefits.
Applicants who have certain medical conditions are entitled to expedited processing of their disability claims under Social Security's Compassionate Allowances program. The list covers 266 types of illness and serious injury, including numerous cancers and neurological disorders such as Huntington’s disease and Lewy body dementia. As of August 2022, more than 800,000 people have been approved for benefits through this accelerated process, the SSA says.
You should not have to ask to be considered for a Compassionate Allowance — Social Security uses text-scanning software to flag potentially eligible applications. But if you have a qualifying condition, disability experts say it doesn’t hurt to note that on your application form.