What can you do to get your Social Security hearing sooner?
In rare circumstances you can have your case designated as critical and cut in line. Social Security will let you cut in line based on a VA rating, a dire need, a terminal illness, or compassionate allowance.
If the VA has found you 100 percent permanently and totally disabled, you are entitled to get your case expedited. You will need to make sure the hearing office has a copy of your VA rating and you will need to follow up with them to make sure they followed through on expediting your case. Never assume the people at Social Security did their jobs. Always verify. If you have to, drive down to the hearing office with a copy of your VA rating and ask to speak to whomever is responsible for expediting cases for veterans.
Even if you do not have a 100 percent VA rating, you can still get your case expedited with a lower VA rating if you sustained an injury while on active duty status after October 1, 2001. I’ve found that many Social Security employees aren’t as familiar with this rule as the 100 percent rating rule, so you’ll need to tell them about the rule. Further, you’ll need something documenting that you were injured while on active duty after October 1, 2001.
Outside of military service, the most common way to get a case sped up is by showing there is a dire need. However, “dire need” has a specific definition in a social security case or everyone applying would claim a dire need. In order to show a dire need, you have to show you lack food, shelter, or necessary medical care. The reality is this definition applies to almost all of my clients but few are granted dire need status when they ask for it. In practice, you’ll need to allege something more than that you can’t afford follow up treatment with your doctor. You’ll need to show some higher level of importance for the medical care. Cases where I’ve gotten dire need granted were when my client was missing a leg and couldn’t afford a prosthetic or when a client was living in a homeless shelter. It never hurts to request dire need status, but you’ll need to show that your situation is worse than the thousands of other people waiting for their hearings.
SSA will expedite your case if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. This tends to happen when someone’s condition worsens after the case is denied at the initial stages or they are diagnosed with a new condition like terminal cancer after the case gets to the hearing level. You’ll need something from your doctor diagnosing your illness as terminal. You will also want to make sure you get someone’s attention at the hearing office. If you just fax a copy of your diagnoses to the hearing office, it might just get filed away and never looked at. For something as important as this, you’ll want to make sure you get someone on the phone who can assure you that they are taking care of expediting your case.
Finally, there is a list of compassionate allowances that can cause SSA to expedite your case. According to SSA’s website, compassionate allowances “primarily include certain cancers, adult brain disorders, and a number of rare disorders that affect children.” For a list of compassionate allowances you can go to https://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/. There is some overlap between compassionate allowances and terminal illnesses because many of these compassionate allowances are for terminal cancers. Also, just like terminal illnesses, SSA likely would have approved your case immediately if you had a compassionate allowance at the initial level. Therefore, if you meet this condition, it is probably a new condition or a condition that worsened since your initial application. You’ll want to get medical documentation that you meet a compassionate allowance and then make sure the right person at the hearing office is looking at your medical documentation. The hearing office gets piles of medical records on a daily basis so you’ll need to make sure someone at the hearing office realizes that you’re asking for a compassionate allowance.
In review, it is extremely difficult to get a hearing before your turn. Unless you’re a veteran, you basically either need to be homeless or dying to move to the front of the line. That said, it never hurts to ask. You might just get lucky for once in your life and have the right person take pity on you.