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Expediting the Disability Claim Process

It can take many months for your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) application to be approved or denied; first-time applicants are often denied benefits. Wait times for the Social Security Administration’s initial decisions regarding disability claims are increasing significantly at a time when applicants most need benefits. Delays can devastate those who lack other household income or have health problems serious enough to shorten life expectancy.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) can expedite claims processing for disability applications under certain dire personal circumstances, medical conditions, or if an applicant has served in the US military. Even without these qualifications, other steps can be taken to speed up your claim. The first is getting help from a disability attorney.

SSA Quick Disability Determinations (QDD) and Compassionate Allowance (CAL)

Two fast-track processes use technology to identify applicants with the most severe disabilities, expediting decision-making on those cases. These claimants have medical conditions that immediately meet disability standards.


A computer-based predictive model processes and screens initial applicant claims, identifying cases where medical evidence is readily available and favorable disability determinations are very likely. QDD’s early identification of these cases helps prioritize workload and expedite processing. The SSA provides online information about the QDD process on its Quick Disability Determination page.


The CAL process can quickly identify diseases and other medical conditions that meet the SSA standards for disability benefits definitions. This reduces wait time for individuals with severe disabilities. The SSA provides online information about the CAL process on its Compassionate Allowances page.

Both programs use text-scanning software to flag potentially eligible applications.

Terminal Illness (TERI)

The SSA identifies those diagnosed with a terminal illness expected to result in death and automatically considers the case for faster processing and determination. Some of the qualifying circumstances and conditions for the TERI program include the following:

  • AIDS
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Malignant and stage IV cancers
  • Individuals receiving in-patient hospice or home hospice care
  • Individuals awaiting a heart, lung, heart and lung, liver, or bone marrow transplant.

Social Security will flag applications listing a TERI qualifying condition.

Presumptive Disability (PD)

The SSA maintains a list of presumptive disability conditions to issue SSI benefits before formally deciding on a disability application. Some conditions may also qualify under TERI, but others, such as intellectual disorders, Down Syndrome, severe spinal injuries, and more, are presumptive disability qualifiers.

If you have one or more conditions on the list, you can receive SSI payments for six months while the SSA processes your case. If your application receives a denial, you may not have to pay back the PD benefits.

Dire Need Case (DRND)

If you lack food, medicine, a place to live, or face imminent foreclosure or eviction, the SSA can expedite application processing as a Dire Need Case.

Those seeking DRND status need to alert Social Security to critical needs. Contact the SSA by phone or submit a “dire need” letter that explains why you require help. Applicants in the appeal process may also seek an expedited hearing on the grounds of dire need.

Military Service

Veterans of the US armed forces can have their claims expedited by the SSA if they qualify as a wounded warrior. A disability must have occurred during active service on or after October 1, 2001, or have a 100 percent permanent and total (P&T) compensation rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You must identify yourself as P&T when applying for benefits.

Waive Notice Requirements

If your disability claim is in an appeal pending an administrative law judge hearing, Social Security must notify you of the hearing at least 75 days in advance. You can waive this notice period to schedule your hearing sooner. Fill out the SSA’s Waiver of Timely Written Notice of Hearing, Form HA-510, and return it to the hearing office that handles your case. Waiving the 75-day notice means the time to gather evidence of your disability will be limited to five business days before your hearing date.

On the Record Request

Requesting an on-the-record (OTR) decision can speed up your appeal process by an administrative law judge. By filing an OTR, you believe your file evidence supports your disability claim without testimony from you or an expert witness at your hearing. Contact your nearest Office of Hearing Operations (OHO) to request an OTR decision if you have already filed for an appeal and formally requested a hearing. An administrative law judge will decide to either issue a written ruling approving your claim or proceed to a hearing.

Professional Legal Help

The expertise of a disability attorney is crucial when trying to expedite a disability claim. Your lawyer can help you through the application process, ensuring all required information is properly presented to expedite your claim. If your application is delayed, a disability attorney knows who to talk to at the SSA or the state office evaluating your claim.

This article offers a summary of aspects of elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact us at 989-495-2555.

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