Without a doubt when you are disabled by an illness or an injury and cannot work, your situation can be very difficult. However, there are several reasons why a difficult situation can become critical. Social Security recognizes that some cases simply cannot wait.

Once a disability claim is tagged as critical the case will be evaluated to determine whether an On-The-Record decision is possible. An O-T-R decision does not require a hearing. If Social Security does not believe a critical case meets their requirements for an O-T-R decision then the hearing date is expedited. Typically, critical cases are scheduled for the first available open hearing slots. If a hearing is canceled, critical cases have the priority to take the opening. After the hearing, the judge’s decision will also be expedited.

There are five situations where a case can be flagged as critical.

The first category of critical cases is disability applicants who are terminally ill. However, even if an impairment will likely result in death, it does not automatically mean the claimant will be judged to be disabled. It just means that the case will be given a priority to be evaluated.

Active-duty military personnel who have become disabled on or after October first 2001, regardless of how or where the disability occurred is the second type of critical case.

Number three is Compassionate Allowance cases where the Social Security Administration offers fast-track processing for people with certain severe disabilities. Applicants who qualify for the Compassionate Allowances Program can receive a decision within weeks rather than waiting months.  For example a person can qualify for a compassionate allowance if they have medical documentation of inoperable cancer that cannot be completely removed, or has spread to other parts of their body.

A dire need situation is the fourth type of critical case. According to Social Security guidelines a dire need situation exists when a person has insufficient money or resources to meet an immediate threat to their health or safety. It could mean a lack of food, clothing, shelter or medical care. Social Security investigates dire need claims and the claimant must provide proof of the particular dire need situation, such as an eviction notice or shut off notices from utility companies.

To get an expedited hearing for a dire need situation, the claimant must write a letter outlining why their situation is critical. Keep mind, however, that Social Security offices get hundreds of dire need letters every year. The vast majority of dire need requests for expedited hearings are turned down.

The last scenario for labeling a case as critical is when a claimant threatens suicide or homicide. If Social Security believes that a claimant is a threat to themselves or to others, they will contact the appropriate authorities immediately to ensure everyone’s safety. They will also provide referral services to suicide prevention programs or other appropriate medical facilities.

If you believe your disability claim should be expedited for any of the reasons I have outlined here, contact us at Cuddigan Law for a free evaluation of your situation. Together we can discuss whether or not your claim qualifies as a critical case.  



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