How can you speed up a Social Security Disability case?
In actuality, in most cases there will not be too many ways you can speed up a Social Security Disability determination. This is because unless a case has been identified as a TERI case (terminal illness) or a compassionate allowance or QDD (quick disability determination decision) claim, the process of assigning the case to an examiner, obtaining the necessary medical evidence, and evaluating it in the context of the Social Security Administration's qualifications and requirements for disability...will remain the same.
That said, there are a few suggestions that may help expedite the processing of a disability case.
Availability of Medical Record Evidence
One factor that can help speed up a Social Security Disability case is the availability of current medical records. Social Security cannot make a disability determination without medical evidence that is ninety days old or less. If you do not have any medical information that is that recent, it is likely you will have to attend a Social Security Medical Exam, otherwise known as a consultative examination, or, simply, CE.
Consultative examinations have become an integral part of the Social Security Disability process, largley because so many disability applicants have not had insurance, or the financial means to have their disabling conditions treated regularly. Unfortunately, consultative examinations add processing time to a disability claim.
However, if you have to have an examination, you can help speed up your disability case by making sure that you attend your examination. If you miss the appointment, rescheduling it could add a month or more time to the processing of your case. If you find that you are unable to attend the exam on the appointed day, or for some reason you miss the appointment, you should make sure contact the disability examiner working on your SSD claim or SSI claim as soon as possible to reschedule the examination.
As stated, missed consultative examinations can add significant time to the processing of your case, so try to avoid missed appointments.
Responding quickly to the Disability Examiner handling the case
Another factor that may help speed up your Social Security Disability claim would be a quick response to all disability examiner contacts and requests. Social Security Disability examiners need various kinds of information in addition to medical record information to process disability claims. They often send an ADL, or activities of daily living, questionnaire and a work history report form for you to complete.
The activities of daily living questionnaire simply asks questions about how your disability has affected your ability to do routine daily activities (i.e. household chores, driving, grocery shopping, interaction with friends or family, or social interactions out in public).
The work activity form is used to get a description of your relevant work activity, i.e., the kinds of jobs you have had during the fifteen years prior to becoming disabled.
If a consultative examination is necessary, the disability examiner will contact you to schedule an appointment. If they cannot reach you by phone, they will mail a request for you to contact them.
If you fail to respond to calls, letters, or forms needed for your disability claim, you may not only slow your disability case down you may actually cause your disability claim to be denied all together.
Filing appeals quickly
If you receive a denial of your claim and you are continuing to pursue your case through the Social Security Disability appeal process, one of the few ways you can speed up your disability case is to appeal any denials as quickly as possible.
You are allowed a sixty-five day appeal period for disability denials, however if you take all that time you may add another four months (the total amount of time that would elapse if you take the full appeal period between your initial disability denial and the reconsideration appeal, and again between your reconsideration appeal denial and the disability hearing request that comes after).
If you receive a denial letter, contact Social Security immediately to appeal your denial. You can complete your appeal forms online, or by using paper forms that you can get from your local Social security office. The important thing is to complete them and get them submitted as quickly as possible.
Expedites based on dire need
If your disability case is at the administrative law judge hearing level, you may be able to speed up the process by submitting a dire need letter to the judge. If you choose to submit a letter, make sure you include bills or late notices to substantiate your dire need. This may or may not help as most individuals who are waiting for disability hearings are in dire need situations by the time they get to their hearing.
As a result, hearings offices are increasingly seeing more requests for expedited hearings based on dire need. However, you lose nothing by submitting your request and there is a chance that your will be scheduled for your hearing quicker.
While all of the above situations can speed up your disability case, there is one other thing that may result in speedier disability claim processing. You should check the status of your disability claim with Social Security regularly. You can do this by calling your local Social Security office or by contacting the disability examiner who is in charge of making your disability determination at the initial disability claim and reconsideration appeal level.
I would suggest, as a former examiner, that you will have better results if you contact the disability examiner at DDS who is making your disability determination versus calling the Social Security office.
If your disability claim is at the administrative law judge hearing appeal level, you can check and see if your case has been scheduled for a hearing by calling the hearings office, or your local Social Security office. Again, it may be best to contact the hearing office versus the social security office.
No matter what level of the process your disability case is at, there are times when more information is needed, or other times when a notice or request has been lost in the mail. If you check your disability claim periodically, you are less likely to miss things that could be important to your Social Security Disability case.
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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