You’ve submitted all of your records to the court, and you’ve been waiting at least three months for your hearing to be scheduled. You’re sure that the judge will approve your benefits based on the medical evidence, but you’re still forced to wait up to a year before your case is heard. Is there anything you can do while you wait that can speed up your benefits approval?

The good news is that some disability applicants many not need to wait for a hearing—or even have a hearing at all. If you have a strong case that is likely to be approved, you can request an "on the record" (OTR) decision, which basically asks the judge in your case to approve your claim without a hearing.

How to Send an on the Record Request to Social Security

After you have requested a hearing, your claim will be sent to a Social Security Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). You should send your request to the appropriate ODAR office, and address your brief to the judge handling your case. The brief should include your name, birthdate, Social Security number, and a short summary of your claim, as well as the reasons you should be granted disability.

The following evidence should be included in your on the record request:

  • Procedural history. You should provide a short recap of your claim, including the date of your injury, the date you first applied, and the type of benefits you have applied for. You must have been unable to work for at least twelve months.
  • Medical records. The most important element of your request is medical evidence. Most judges will only approve an OTR request if there is overwhelming medical proof of disability, such as blood tests, x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and other conclusive testing.
  • Residual Functional Capacity. You will need to provide proof that your condition has prevented you from performing the work that you were previously able to do or any other work. This is called your residual functional capacity (RFC), and it describes the most you are able to do with your impairment. The RFC form should be completed by your doctor or specialist, and must include any specific restrictions to your abilities—such as difficulty lifting certain amounts of weight, bending, or standing for too long. Your doctor should clearly indicate his conclusions based on your medical records; for instance, you cannot lift weights because of risk of injury to your back.
  • Explanations. Most disability cases at the hearing level have been denied due to some unfavorable evidence in the applicant’s file. You should address all of the reasons you may have been denied benefits and provide a clear explanation of why you should be granted disability in spite of them. For instance, if you performed work after your disability onset date, you may explain the nature of the work and how it did not interfere with your restrictions.

As your case depends heavily on the information you provide in your request, you should have an attorney look over the brief before you send it to the judge. Email us today at [email protected]  or call us (402) 933-5405 to get answers to your questions.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska