Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Speeding up the Social Security Disability or SSI Claim Process

I just encountered an article that had a title similar to this and the author stated that, unfortunately, there was no way of speeding up a social security disability or SSI claim. In some ways, I would be inclined to agree with this individual. After all, claimants have no control over how much time it takes for a disability examiner to arrive at a decision on their case, and they likewise have no control over the following:

A) How much time it takes for an independent physician to get a report of their findings from a CE (consultative examination) back to the disability examiner.

B) Whether or not a case will be deferred for several months because a claimant had a medical event (e.g. a stroke) or a procedure (eye surgery, a heart attack) that necessitated this.

C) How long it took a local social security office to forward an appeal to Disability Determination Services where it would be assigned to a disability examiner for decision processing.

All these things are true and so it is tempting to say that claimants have no means of mediating how long the disability claim process takes. However, there actually are ways to speed up the process if you view the avoidance of certain mistakes as ways to speed the disability claim process along. So, here's a list of mistakes to avoid that, typically, consume valuable time in a needless fashion.

1. If you get a notice from a disability examiner stating that you should go to a CE (a consultative medical examination conducted by a private practice physician who is being paid by SSA to render such services, otherwise known colloquially as a social security medical exam), go to the appointment. If you miss the CE appointment for a valid reason, you can certainly ask for a rescheduled appointment. But it could add weeks of time to your case. As a disability examiner, I found that too high a percentage of applicants tended to miss their appointments, and this made for needless delays. Some applicants will even miss multiple appointments (which is why some doctors who perform CEs simply drop out of the program).

2. If you get denied on a disability claim, get the appeal filed IMMEDIATELY. Yes, claimants have two months from the date of the denial in which to do this. But why add time to your case? There's no rational reason for waiting 10 days before the deadline to get an appeal submitted, either on paper forms or online. Getting the appeal submitted immediately versus waiting right before the deadline is the same as...speeding up your case.

Note: if you have a disability attorney, make sure they take the same approach. I have seen some practitioners make a habit (though, in all honesty, this was the result of the lackadaisical habits of their support staff) of sending in appeals right before the expiration of the appeal deadline. You don't want this. Think about it: you're paying someone to handle your case--you're not paying someone to handle it in a way that makes your claim take longer than it should.

3. If you get a notice from a disability examiner requesting that you contact them, or you get a form in the mail from an examiner (such as an activities of daily living questionaire), respond quickly. Believe it or not, as slow as cases seem to get processed, disability examiners would really prefer to get those cases dispensed with sooner. Simply because they are evaluated, in part, based on their processing speed. So, complying with information requests can be a good way of helping the decision-maker to move as quickly as he or she can.

4. Here's the biggest one on this short list of mistakes to avoid: if you get denied, don't let your case simply die because you have failed to submit an appeal.

Some individuals do this and then, months later, decide to file a new claim. This amounts to a catastrophic waste of valuable time. Many individuals whose claims "go silent" for lack of action on a disability application could actually, in that same time span, have gotten through the reconsideration appeal stage and have had a request for hearing on record.

I may add more of these to the list later, but to address the topic with which we began, yes, there are ways of speeding up the process. And the best way to speed it up is to avoid costly, time-consuming errors.

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog

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