I get e-mails asking this question frequently, but often worded differently.
- “How do I get an SSDI or SSI decision faster?”
- “How do I speed up my Social Security disability?”
- “What can I do to get a quicker decision on my SSD or SSI claim?”
They all mean the same thing. The bottom line is people want to know how to speed up the process of getting their Social Security Disability benefits. They want to win fast, and I am going to list some ways on this site that can help that happen. However, keep in mind that pretty much nobody who decides to apply for Social Security disability will have a quick and pleasant experience. Some form of financial hardship must be expected. There is no way to say exactly how long it will take to receive a decision, but it is never quick.
Frankly, it has never been easy to speed up an SSDI or SSI decision, because the Social Security Administration simply can’t put every suffering person on the fast track to disability benefits. In fact, in recent years, it has become more difficult than ever to get rapid decisions on Social Security disability claims. The chief reason for this increase is just how many more cases every year Social Security has to make decisions about at all stages of the process, from the initial application through to the final hearing.
To help make your Social Security disability experience faster on your end, I am going to give you some basic tips, including how to request a quicker decision with a “dire need letter.” I will also overview the new Social Security disability process that helps speed up cases for thousands of claimants and explain how veterans are entitled to a speedier application process and decision:
First, make sure you answer every question on your application and double-check for accuracy. When Social Security reviews it, they will have to reconnect with you for any additional information needed, further delaying the next steps of the process. Be sure to respond as quickly as possible if Social Security does tell you they need more information, even if it’s something you’ve already told them.
Another good time-saver is to make sure that you have submitted to Social Security all of your medical records that are relevant to the case. Stay in contact with your lawyer, if you have one, to be certain that all the medical evidence for your case has been retrieved by either your lawyer or the Social Security office. It is good to check in with your lawyer every couple of months no matter what.
Social Security applicants with the best chance of winning are those that provide opinion evidence from their doctors that describe what illness is causing the disability and how it is preventing the ability to work. You can get this by simply having your doctor write up a report or fill out a residual functional capacity (RFC) form.
After applying for disability benefits, call Social Security or your lawyer within a month or two to double-check that nothing was omitted from your application, and then do your best to get the missing information for them, which could make a good impression before the first hearing. If you are at the hearing stage of your claim process, it could very well take a year or two to get an SSDI or SSI hearing. After requesting the hearing, call the hearing office or your disability lawyer to see what you may need to add to your Social Security file to better your evidence and improve your chances at a hearing.
If you are at this level, that probably means you have been denied twice already. If you don’t already have a disability lawyer by this point, I strongly encourage you to consider hiring one. Improvements will be better made to your Social Security file if you have a professional’s viewpoint.
One way to get a favorable decision made on your claim without waiting for a hearing date is to request an on the record decision (OTR). This can be best used if it is sent by an experienced disability lawyer, especially one who has had success with OTRs before. This would give you a good chance of winning without having to have a hearing. A request for an on the record decision is most effective when it is written in a legal letter brief format which shows good reason for your disability that is supported by medical evidence. You can request an OTR without a lawyer, but writing a strong brief can be difficult for someone with no legal experience.
An OTR may get ignored if a lawyer is known to submit OTRs frequently or if a brief looks unprofessional. Due to the great number of such requests received at the Social Security hearing office and the much smaller number of lawyers and judges there to review them, there is a good chance yours could be passed by. If you have a disability lawyer who does not feel your case is ready for an OTR, you should respect that decision and ask what else can be done to help strengthen your claim.
An OTR is a request for a completely positive decision made without hearing or testimony. Therefore, many cases are not appropriate for such action. You can have a strong case that has good chances of winning at a hearing, but some testimony is often needed to receive a favorable decision. You can still request an on the record decision without losing your case or damaging your chances of getting a hearing, but not many cases are approved at this early level without a hearing.
If your request for an OTR decision is denied, your case will be set for a hearing with an ALJ. If you’re seeking SSDI and are experiencing severe financial hardship or on the verge of homelessness, a lawyer can draft a “dire need” letter on your behalf. This could expedite your hearing date.