Dire Need and Getting a Social Security Disability or SSI Case Speeded Up

Can you get a case speeded up simply by requesting this to occur? Not usually, but there is something known as a dire need request, which is a request for expedited service based on a person's danger of losing their rented or owned home, or their expectation that they might be unable to keep their utilities on, or pay for needed medication.

Unfortunately, dire need requests typically have zero effect at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels. This is because there is usually nothing to expedite, meaning that disability examiners cannot make the process go any faster than it does.

There are cases in which a claim will be flagged for involving a terminal illness or a presumptive disability and this can result in a decision that is made much faster and without the standard medical evidence requirements. However, most claims will not fit into this category.

Having said that, dire need requests will sometimes expedite claims that are pending at the hearing level, meaning that a disability hearing has been requested and is waiting to be scheduled. Why does a dire need request sometimes work at the hearing level? Because if the request is granted it allows a claim to "cut in line" so to speak and get scheduled sooner. However, a dire need request has nothing to do with the actual outcome of a claim.

At the hearing level, a claimant and their disability attorney may have a couple of other tactics at their disposal as well. The first is a request for an "on-the-record review". This happens when the claimant's attorney sends a letter to the hearing office director stating that the merits of the case are strong enough to forego a hearing and simply render a decision on the basis of the evidence that currently exists "on the record".

On the record requests can save a claimant months of time because when such requests are granted and a case is subsequently approved on-the-record, it automatically deletes much of--even potentially all--the time required for scheduling a hearing, holding a hearing and waiting on a decision from the social security judge.

Another device used by disability attorneys at the hearing level is to submit a brief to an administrative law judge asking for a "bench decision". A bench decision is different from the standard decision issued by a judge in that, according to social security regulations, the written decision can be very short. This avoids the timely delay of having a decision-writer compile the lengthy notice of decision following the hearing.

In effect, it can save considerable time for a claimant who is waiting to receive benefits. Bench decisions are not the norm but they can be achieved by disability attorneys who put together a well-documented case and who are able to make clear how strong the case is in the hearing brief that they submit to the judge.

Finally, another tip for speeding up the Social Security Disability process would be to file your disability denial appeals as promptly as you can.

If you take the maximum sixty-five days that are allowed each time you appeal a disability denial (the deadline at all levels is sixty days and social security also gives you an extra 5 days for mailing your paperwork), you will have added an additional four months to the processing time of your SSD or SSI case.

This is assuming, of course, that you will have to appeal your claim through to the hearings level. But for most individuals, a disability hearing will be necessary.

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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