Although Social Security disability benefits can be an invaluable lifeline for individuals unable to work, they sometimes take what may feel like an eternity to arrive. From the moment you submit your application to the day you receive your first benefit payment, many months and maybe even years will have elapsed. Can anything be done to speed up the process?
For a lot of applicants, the answer is: “No.” Unfortunately, a large number of applicants are denied initially, so a lengthy appeals process must be endured before the Social Security Administration (SSA) makes its final decision. But there are a handful of options to explore that may shrink the amount of time you have to wait.
As a general matter, the best thing you can do to reduce wait time is by completely and accurately filling out all paperwork, responding quickly to any of SSA’s requests for additional information, and assembling all relevant medical records for SSA’s examiners to review. Delays usually come from waiting for an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to schedule and host your disability hearing, but taking care of the above can only help to move your case along.
Those basics aside, you can request an OTR (off the record) decision. If you go this route, an ALJ will make a decision on his or her review of your record, rather than wait for you to testify at your appeal hearing. The idea here is that your file contains enough evidence to show that you are completely disabled, so there is no need for your testimony or that of a vocational expert at a hearing. To request an OTR decision, you will have to wait until your claim has been denied, and you’ve appealed and are awaiting a hearing. Then, contact the nearest Office of Hearing Operations and ask for an OTR review.
Additionally, you can request an attorney advisor decision. After you have requested a hearing, you can ask for an attorney advisor decision if you have new evidence to support your claim, you can show that Social Security has made a mistake, or if there has been a change in laws that will support your claim. An attorney advisor may schedule a conference with you and/or ask for more evidence before making a decision.
Lastly, the kind of disability you suffer from may entitle to you an expedited review. SSA has a Compassionate Allowances List (CAL) that outlines over 200 conditions that are so serious, if you can prove you suffer from one of them on the list, you will likely receive benefits more quickly. And if you suffer from a terminal illness, SSA has a program called TERI that allows them to expedite reviews.
Even if you do not wish to or cannot pursue one of the above methods to speed up your claim, consider hiring an experienced Social Security disability attorney. He or she will be well-versed in how to prove disability and will know the ins-and-outs of the process to make sure all deadlines are met, and all paperwork and appeals are completed quickly and thoroughly.