If you have a Social Security disability hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), you probably will leave the hearing without knowing whether you won or not.  Most claimants have to wait between thirty and ninety days to receive the ALJ’s decision in the mail.  (Sometimes it can take even longer if the judge needs to get additional information.)

When you receive your decision and look it over, you still might have trouble telling whether you won or not!  The decisions have a lot of information in them, and it can be hard at first glance to figure out what’s important.  The first page of your decision will look something like this:

Decision page 1



The first clue you have about the outcome of your case is the title at the top.  There are four possibilities:

Notice of Decision – Fully Favorable:  Congratulations!  You won!  A “fully favorable” decision means that the ALJ found that you became disabled as of your alleged onset date and continue to be disabled.  An ALJ also issues a favorable decision when the claimant agrees at the hearing to change his or her alleged onset date or to accept a closed period of disability.

Notice of Decision – Partially Favorable:  This decision is typically mostly good news, but not always.  In short, a partially favorable decision is one in which the judge found that you are (or were) disabled for some of the time since your alleged onset date, but not for all of that time.  If you received a “partially favorable” decision, it could mean one of two things:

Notice of Decision: Unfavorable: This decision is bad news.  It means that the ALJ found that you do not meet Social Security’s medical requirements to receive disability benefits.

Notice of Dismissal: This decision means that the ALJ dismissed your request for a hearing without deciding whether you are disabled or not.  Typically, a request for a hearing is dismissed for one of the following reasons:


There are two things to keep in mind as you read the first pages of the decision.

Even after your hearing is over, your attorney or representative is an excellent source of information.  I always encourage my clients to call me if they have any questions regarding their decision.