It can take a long time to get approved for disability benefits; several years for many claimants (applicants). However, there are a number of methods to speed up the process. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will expedite the processing of SSI and/or SSDI claims that meet certain requirements, typically where a certain medical or financial condition is present. Additionally, there are several options for expediting the resolution of claims are at the hearing level.
Compassionate Allowance (CAL)
If you are diagnosed with one of the over 200 medical conditions on Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances List, you may be able to get benefits in a matter of days or weeks. Examples of conditions on the list are acute leukemia, aplastic anemia, breast cancer with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, gallbladder cancer, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and malignant multiple sclerosis. When you apply, you should also submit medical evidence showing you have the condition.
Terminal Illness (TERI)
If you have Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), are receiving inpatient or home hospice care, AIDS, or another terminal illness such as certain cancers, you should alert SSA when you file so they they can expedite your claim.
Quick Disability Determination (QDD)
Under the Quick Disability Determination program, SSA uses a computer program to analyze your file and determine whether there is a high probability that you will be found disabled. If its criteria are met, your case will be sent to designated examiners at Disability Determination Services (DDS) to expedite the review of your claim. You can increase your chances of getting QDD treatment if you submit all of your medical records when you apply. QDD cases are generally processed in under 20 days.
Military Casualty/Wounded Warrior
Claims by service members and veterans for injuries occurring during active duty military service on or after October 1, 2001, are expedited at all levels of review from the initial application through the Appeals Council. These cases should be easy for SSA to identify, but you should always make sure SSA knows your disability arose during military service. Your disability need not be service-connected.
Personal or Public Safety
SSA will expedite a claim if there is evidence from any source that the claimant is suicidal or homicidal.
Contact a Member of Congress
If you do not qualify for any of the above options, you can contact your Senator or Representative and request that they contact SSA on your behalf.
Methods Available to SSI Only
Presumptive Disability (PD)
This is applicable to initial applications for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) payments only. If you have a condition on SSA’s Presumptive Disability list, SSA will start your SSI payments before a decision is made on your case. SSA will pay these benefits for up to six months while a formal decision is pending. Examples of eligible conditions are total deafness or blindness, Down Syndrome, low birth weight, and end-stage renal disease requiring dialysis.
Methods Applicable at the Hearing Level (Office of Hearing Operations, formerly Office of Disability Adjudication and Review/ODAR)
This is a request for expedited service based on a person’s danger of losing their home, or their expectation that they might be unable to keep their utilities on, or pay for needed medication.
On-the-record Review (OTR)
Your attorney can submit a brief to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) before a hearing is held, requesting that a decision be made based only on the evidence already in file. If the judge cannot issue a fully favorable decision after an OTR, your case will continue to a hearing.
Oral (Bench) Decision
If you have a hearing before an ALJ, the ALJ can issue a fully favorable oral decision at the hearing if certain conditions are met. Though a written decision will be issued, you will be able to get your benefits several months sooner. Your attorney should explicitly request that this be done.
Attorney Advisor Decision
After you have requested a hearing but before it is scheduled, your attorney can contact the hearing office and request that an attorney advisor make a decision on your claim. This option is available for claims where new and material evidence is submitted, there is an indication that additional evidence is disabled, there is a change in the law, or there is an error in the file. An attorney advisor may ask for more evidence or may schedule a conference with you to find out more. If the attorney advisor can make a fully favorable decision before a hearing is scheduled, your claim will be approved and you will not have to attend a formal hearing before the ALJ.