Social Security disability cases are seriously jammed up. A recent investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle found that “the backlog of cases pending a hearing stands at about 1.1 million, up from 700,000 in 2010. [And] the average wait time is 596 days or 19½ months, up from 545 days [a year ago] and only 353 days in 2012.” Tragically, the Social Security’s inspector general says that in 2016 7,400 people died while waiting for a hearing. If you are waiting for a Social Security disability hearing there are some steps you can take to speed up the process.
Step 1: Start the process of filing for benefits immediately. Although Social Security only pays benefits for long term disabilities, you do not have to wait to file for benefits if your disabling condition is expected to last 12 months or longer. At our law firm we see many people who put off filing for disability benefits because they were hoping their medical situation would improve. “If you get better you can always return to work,” Attorney Tim Cuddigan points out. “The wait is bad even if you file quickly, but life can be much more difficult if you wait and your financial situation takes a turn for the worse.”
Step 2: Hire a professional to represent you. Statistics show that you have a better chance at winning benefits if you have a disability lawyer to advocate for you. An experienced law team will make sure your filings are complete, accurate and that you don’t miss critically important deadlines.
Step 3: File your disability denial appeals as soon as you can. Our final tip for speeding up the Social Security disability process would be to complete and mail your paperwork right away at each stage of the disability process. Social Security gives you a maximum of sixty-five days each time you appeal a denial of disability (the deadline at all levels is sixty days and Social Security also gives you an extra five days for mailing your paperwork). If you take the maximum amount of time at each level you will be adding an additional four months to the processing time of your disability claim.
Step 4: Request an expedited hearing based on dire need. In some extreme cases your attorney can ask that your hearing date be moved up if you are in a serious financial bind. Maybe you are in danger of losing your home or being evicted from your apartment. Perhaps you cannot pay for needed medical treatments or prescription medications. If so, your disability attorney can make a request to the hearing office director or administrative law judge (if one has been assigned to your case) to speed up the scheduling of your disability hearing—in effect to allow you to “jump the line”. A dire need request has no effect at the application or reconsideration phases of disability claim, because there is nothing to expedite, no line to jump. It is critically important that your attorney include complete and detailed documentation of your dire need. Because there are a record number of backlogged cases, requests for expedited hearings are also at record levels. Filing a request for an expedited hearing without solid documentation is useless.