Various factors may impact the processing time for Social Security Disability claims. Wait times often fluctuate depending on the current backlog in the claimant’s location, the approval rate at each hearings office, the average disposition time, and the type and severity of the disabled person’s condition.

How Location Influences Wait Times

Because some locations process more applications, have fewer administrative law judges, or take longer to make decisions, the location of a claim can influence a claimant’s wait time.

In Illinois, there are three stages involved in the SSDI application process:

Illinois has a slightly lower approval rating than the national average throughout each stage beyond the initial application stage but has generally improved over the years.

Over the past decade, Illinois has risen from an approval rate of 33.2% during the initial application stage in 2010 to 36.8% in 2018, the latter of which was 1.6% higher than the national average that year. 

Wait Times and Approvals for Hearings by Office

Illinois is included in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Region 5, whose headquarters are located in Chicago. There are six hearing offices in Illinois, each of which has disclosed its waiting times for case dispositions and hearings.

In 2019, the state’s average wait time equaled the national average. The Chicago headquarters has the longest average wait time—23.1 months. All other offices have lower-than-average wait times. However, the average approval rate for every office is lower than the national average. No Illinois office has achieved a 50% approval rating.

Fast Track Decisions

People with certain severe or terminal conditions may be eligible for expedited disability claims processing. Claimants who qualify for the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance Program can sometimes receive approvals in just a few days. Veterans who became disabled while on active duty may also qualify for expedited claims processing.

Avoid Longer Wait Times

Disability applicants may improve their wait times when they are represented by a disability attorney. because claims mistakes and omissions can cause significant delays or denials. According to the Government Accountability Office, individuals who have a representative to help with their cases are three times more likely to get approved at the hearing level than applicants who go through the process on their own.