Can a disability attorney speed up my disability case? By What Methods?

If you have attorney representation on your Social Security Disability or SSI disability claim, your disability attorney can attempt to speed up the scheduling of your case before an administrative law judge, or even eliminate the need for a hearing altogether. Generally, this would only be possible in one of several ways.

1. Requesting an on-the-record review - Getting an approval based on an on-the-record review can eliminate the need for a hearing. An OTR review is requested when your disability attorney believes that the medical evidence supporting your case is very strong (in other words, that there is no question that you should qualify for disability benefits in accordance with the SSA definition of disability based on what your records have to say about your condition).

The request also depends on one of the following: A) Whether or not your condition has significantly worsened since the time that your case was previously denied at the reconsideration appeal level or B) Whether or not your claim was improperly denied by the reconsideration level examiner due to erroneous handling, or a misinterpretation of your medical evidence.

And on-the-record review, of course, will only be requested by your disability attorney if your attorney believes there is very little question that the case is strong enough to be approved without the need for presentation and argument at a formal hearing. Whether or not the request for the review will result in an on-the-record allowance (approval) will depend on the merits of the case and whatever additional material may have been submitted by the disability attorney.

2. Requesting an expedite of the hearing based on dire need - If a claimant is in danger of losing their residence (their rented residence due to eviction or their mortgaged home due to foreclosure), or losing their access to needed medical treatment or prescribed medications, they may be able to request that the hearing office speed up or expedite the scheduling of their disability hearing based on this. If a dire need situation exists, a claimant's disability attorney can formally submit the dire need request to either the hearing office director or the administrative law judge if a specific judge has been assigned to the case at the time of the request.

With the dire need request, the disability lawyer should attach documentation regarding the claimant's situation (such as a statement from the claimant's treating physician regarding the deteriorating condition or need for prescription medicine, or copies of foreclosure or eviction notices). Sending supporting documentation will substantially improve one's chances of having their hearing expedited. This is especially true considering the fact that, due to current backlogs at the hearing level, the various hearing offices are receiving unprecedented numbers of requests for expedites based on dire need. In other words, sending in a dire need request without documentation regarding the dire need situation may be next to useless.

3. Congressional Inquiry - A claimant, or their disability attorney, can always contact the office of their congressional representative (their district congressman or congresswoman) to have that office conduct a formal inquiry into why it is taking so long to get a hearing scheduled. Congressional inquiries are done at all levels of the disability system. However, at the disability application and request for reconsideration levels, it is generally a waste of time to do this type of inquiry since the inquiry request is generally just put into the claimant's disability file with no discernable effect on the case (which is actually logical since at those levels, the case will simply move at whatever speed it can move regardless of who inquiries into it).

At the hearing level, however, where cases can literally sit for 1-2 years before being scheduled, an inquiry from the office of a congressperson can effectively get a case scheduled many months faster than would ordinarily have been the case. As someone involved in the representation of Social Security Disability and SSI claims, I have seen the effectiveness of Congressional inquiries on a number of occasions.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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