You are entitled to payment within one month of being determined to be disabled, or otherwise eligible to receive benefits if applying under other programs. In other words, your Social Security check will always be one month behind.
If you’re asking the question “how long will it take to get my benefits” and you’re in the middle of the administrative or adjudicative process, then the practical answer is this – “a long time.”
The administrative process is not short. After the claim is initially filed, it may take up to three months to receive a determination as to whether you are entitled to benefits. The vast majority of claims are denied at the initial filing, so chances are, you must file for reconsideration. Typically, it takes another three months or so to receive the determination after your reconsideration request. Again, most claims are denied at this level and a hearing before an administrative law judge must be requested in order to move forward. At best, the hearing will be set for five or six months from the date that the hearing was requested. After the hearing, if benefits have been awarded, the payment process may take several more months to get going.
So, as a practical matter, it may take as little as eighteen months or as much as several years to get paid following the initial application.
If you believe you are disabled and unable to work, don’t wait. Hire a lawyer right away.