April 28, 2010

Can I Get My Social Security Disability Hearing Date Expedited?

express.JPGIt may be a painful reality that the Indiana Social Security disability claims process is a long drawn out process. In some cases, disability claimants are faced with some unfortunate situations while they are waiting the 18-24 months to be in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Indianapolis Social Security Disabilty Lawyer Scott D. Lewis often gets asked by his Social Security disability clients how they will be able to get their hearing date expedited. Mr. Lewis understands the client’s frustration with the waiting process, but getting a hearing date faster than anyone else is not as easy as he’d like.

As most Social Security disability attorneys would share with their clients, getting a hearing date expedited may be difficult but not impossible. In some circumstances, a disability claimant may be able to prove a “dire need” to expedite the hearing. As most claimants experience, living without a paycheck, with existing ongoing medical bills, needing a place to sleep, and needing to eat can cause a lot of difficulty when it comes to survival. Attorney Scott Lewis often recommends to his clients to find a good support system during this difficult time. So, how does someone tell the Social Security Administration (SSA) that they are in a dire need to expedite the date of their disability hearing? First of all, the claimant and/or their disability lawyer must submit a “dire need” letter to the SSA explaining their extreme financial hardship. A “Dire Need” situation exists when a person has insufficient income or resources to meet an immediate threat to health or safety, such as lack of food, clothing, shelter or medical care.  The claim must allege specific immediate circumstances.  In Attorney Scott Lewis’ experience, the preceding factors may be looked at, but the three main factors the Indiana Social Security Administration will focus on are homelessness, home foreclosures or being terminally ill.

You may wonder what the SSA would consider a dire need situation. Unfortunately, this may mean that things must get pretty bad for the claimant.  Requests for expediting a disability hearing are routinely denied, but some examples of a dire need situation are as follows:

  1. If a claimant is the age of 55 or older, consideration of expediting the hearing is more likely.  Claimants that are 55 or older fall into a less restrictive disability category.  As a consequence, the claim is more easily decided by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) or an attorney advisor. 
  2. If a claimant is terminally ill or when the claimant is at a critical risk for death if emergency life saving surgery is not performed immediately, this may be considered a dire need situation.   This circumstance must be put in writing by the claimant’s physician and be submitted with the claimant’s request to expedite the hearing. Terminal illness cases or “Compassionate Allowance” cases must clearly set forth the emergency medical situation involved.
  3. If a claimant’s home is about to be foreclosed or they are facing eviction, the SSA may consider this as a dire need situation.  When a claimant states this claim, they must support it with a Notice of Eviction, foreclosure notice from a mortgage lender, utility companies, etc.  This supporting evidence must be a legally driven notice not a handwritten note from a friend or relative.
  4. If a claimant is on the brink of losing the ability to access needed medication, this may also be considered a dire need situation.
  5. If a claimant becomes suicidal due to their situation, this may influence an expedited hearing.

As all disability claimants have the right to submit such request, seldom, if ever, these requests are granted.  With the extreme backlog of disability cases pending with the SSA, it’s unlikely that a claimant will get their hearing date any faster. On occasion, Attorney Scott D. Lewis does file these requests to the SSA when a client notifies him of such situations.  In some cases, requests for an expedited hearing may only move the hearing date up by a few months.  It is only in extremely rare cases that the SSA will grant a request and hear the case within 90 days. 

If you have a pending Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim, contact Attorney Scott D. Lewis for a free consultation at (317) 423-8888. On a regular basis, Attorney Scott D. Lewis deals with disabilities such as degenerative disc disease, diabetes, heart conditions, schizophrenia, COPD, and many other disabilities. 

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