Waiting For An ALJ Hearing? Ways To Speed Up Your Claim
Applying for Social Security Disability is not an easy task. You have to provide a lot of information and documentation, and you also have to do a lot of waiting. This is especially true if your initial application is not approved and you have to have a hearing before a judge. This hearing, called an ALJ hearing, can take a year or more. The length of time depends partly on your location. In 2016, for example, the average wait time for a hearing in Toledo, OH was 12 months, but in Brooklyn, NY, it was 24 months. However, in some cases, you may be able to speed things up. Take a look at a few possible ways to get your benefits faster.
Show That You're in Dire Need
The Social Security office recognizes that there are some situations that cannot wait. If you can show that you're in dire need of assistance, your local Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) can move up the date of your hearing so that you don't have to wait any longer than necessary.
Dire need can mean several things. Are you homeless, or are you facing an imminent eviction or foreclosure that will leave you homeless? Do you need medical treatment that can't wait, but that you can't afford to pay for? Are you unable to buy food? Those are all examples of dire need. If you feel that your situation meets the criteria, you should write to your ODAR and describe your need.
Request OTR or Attorney Advisor Decisions
You can also request an OTR decision or an attorney advisor decision, either of which will help you bypass the ALJ hearing, which will speed up the process. An OTR decision is made by an administrative law judge, like an ALJ hearing. However, when you request an OTR decision, the judge makes the decision based solely on your file, without testimony from you or from a vocational expert. This is faster, because it avoids the wait for a hearing, but it's also risky. If you decide to go this route, you should make absolutely sure that you've submitted enough information to prove that you have a disability without benefit of testimony.
You should request an attorney advisor decision if you believe that the Social Security office made a mistake in denying your application, if you have new evidence to support the claim in your initial application, or if the law has changed since you submitted your application, and you believe that under the new law, you would be approved. In this case, a Social Security attorney will review your file and decide if your claim can now be approved. If they decide against you, you'll still be able to wait for the ALJ hearing and try again there.
Check to See if You Qualify for a Compassionate Allowance
Social Security has a list of illnesses that qualify for compassionate allowance, which means that benefits are fast tracked because it's assumed that people with the condition will always meet the standards for disability. You don't have to apply for a compassionate allowance specifically—applications are supposed to be screened for these conditions. However, mistakes can happen, and sometimes applications that list one of these conditions are mistakenly overlooked, or you might have failed to submit a piece of evidence that supports a diagnosis of a compassionate allowance condition.
It's worth looking to see if your condition is on the list. The compassionate allowance list includes many cancers, including leukemia, liver cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as many other conditions. If you discover that your condition is one that qualifies for a compassionate allowance, fast-tracking your application should be a simple matter of alerting the Social Security office to the oversight or tracking down and submitting the correct medical documentation.
If you're in need of a faster decision, consulting a disability attorney from a law firm like Iler and Iler is a good idea. A disability attorney can be very helpful in exploring all of your options for speeding up your disability claim, and they can advise you of the risks and benefits of each option.