There are only certain situations in which the Social Security Administration will deem a case worth expediting through the disability process. If your case does not meet one or more of the required criteria, you will likely have to stand in line and wait with the others.
Probably the case that will almost always get placed on an expedited status is if the claimant has a terminal illness. By and far, Stage 3 and 4 cancer claims are the most common. On the first page of the online application, there is a question that asks if the claimant is expected to die from his or her condition. If you check "yes," then the claim is going to be placed an an expedited schedule.
However, that does not mean that Social Security will cut you any special breaks. You are still going to have to go through the same procedures everyone else has to go through. You will still be responsible for your Work History and Function Reports. Your records will still have to be gathered from your list of treating sources, and many times an expedited case is denied on the first attempt. Many of my clients have been shocked to find out they were denied after the first filing, it only came sooner than when others received their denials.
The other most common time when a case will be placed on an expedited schedule is when the claim is considered a dire needs case because the claimant is without food, shelter, or access to medication. These cases are usually placed on an expedited schedule during the process when the claimant or his or her representative contact Social Security or their state's Disability Determination Service (DDS) and inform the case manager that he or she has lost their home, ran completely out of money, etc.
But, there are some catches to a dire needs case. First, even if you lose your place to live, that does not automatically place you on an expedited schedule. It is not unusual for a claimant to lose his or her home during this lengthy process. Because many are unable to work at all, it is common that there would be no income coming in. Further, many claimants do not have any monetary reserves to sustain them through this process. So, if you do lose your home, but you can find a friend or relative to live with until your case is settled, then you are not considered to be in dire need.
So, what else can you do to speed up your case?
One of the best ways in which you can speed your case up is to do what is asked of you in a timely manner. For example, when you receive your Work History and Function Reports, do them immediately and return them back to your state Disability Determination Service. Time and time again I see lag times in returning these reports back to the case manager. Until they are received, no decision can be made on your case. If you refuse to them, then a denial is the likely result.
Second, and probably most important, is to return what is required back to Social Security when you first file your case. If the case is filed online (and you really need to file everything online), Social Security will send out a printed copy of all answers made in the online application along with other instructions to continue to case. Many times, there is a request for the last year's W-2's, copy of birth certificate, etc. You cannot have your case moved forward until you send these items to your local Social Security office. In fact, if you do not send them, your case will likely sit in the local Social Security office until you comply. That means, that your case will not be sent to your Disability Determination Service (DDS) office and it will not be assigned to a case manager.
Believe it not, your case manager does have incentive to move your case along as fast as possible. Once your case is assigned to DDS, they are required to finish your case as quickly as possible. It is very unlikely a case manager is simply taking his or her time on your case just because they want to.
Also, if you want to move your case forward and faster than others, communicate with your case manager. Many times he or she is waiting for your doctors or hospitals to send medical records. Here is where many times the cases become very slow. Especially at hospitals, requests for medical records are made in enormous volumes. It can take sometimes months to fulfill medical records requests. If your case manager is waiting for these records, oftentimes it is better for you to go in person to your hospital or doctor's office and retrieve the records and send them to your case manager yourself.
Tried everything and nothing seems to work? On a last ditch effort, call your congressman/woman. He or she has the power to intervene on your behalf. In fact, if he or she refuses to do so, they are not doing their job for their constituents. I have yet to see when a call to a claimant's congressional representative did not help move his or her case along. However, because I would not want to see this tactic lose it effectiveness, I would again only use this as a last resort.
But again, all of these things may or may not result in an approval. If you are denied at the initial request and at the Reconsideration phase, you will have to attend a hearing before an administrative law judge. Once with a judge, even an expedited case will take a year or more before the hearing is scheduled. From there, it will take another month or two before the judge delivers his or her opinion.
Want to know just how long a case could go on before an approval? If you a denied twice and must wait for a hearing and a written decision, your case could likely take up to two years before it is finally settled. What is the best answer to receiving disability benefits as soon as possible? Don't put off filing for your Social Security disability benefits. The longer you wait, the older your medical records become, and the less relevant they are in making a medical decision. If you wait more than two years without receiving updated medical treatment, you also risk Social Security denying your claim over and over again.