- Initial Application
- Request for Reconsideration
- Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
Because so many applicants are denied at the first two stages, many individuals will choose to pursue the third option, Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. At this stage, many more applicants are awarded benefits (the denial rate in Utah drops to about 32%) making appearing before an Administrative Law Judge a worthwhile choice for the majority of applicants. Many applicants, however, become discouraged with the long waiting period associated with hearings. In the state of Utah, you typically wait twelve to sixteen months before you are granted a hearing date.
While there is nothing you or our office can do to guarantee a shorter wait time, there are a few tips and tricks that stand a chance of speeding up your hearing waiting period. The following suggestions can be found at disabilitysecrets.com:
Sending a “dire need” letter
Dire need letters are written by SSI or SSDI applicants and sent to the Office of Adjudication and Review (ODAR). The purpose of these letters is to emphasize the financial severity of an applicant’s situation. Applicants who write dire need letters are often in a position where they are about to be evicted or where they will soon lose access to important medications because of their inability to pay. Only those who are in legitimate, dire need of help should write these letters, as over-exaggerating your situation will not go over well with an Administrative Law Judge. Along with the letter, applicants can send copies of late notices and bills that they are unable to pay as further proof of their circumstances.
Facilitating a Congressional Inquiry
Another method disability applicants use to help increase their chances of being awarded benefits is to contact a local senator or congressman. Because these political figures often have sway in the community, their involvement in a disability case could mean faster results for applicants. In these situations, congressional staff members typically call, email, or write a letter to the hearing office and request, on behalf of the applicant, that the applicant receive a new hearing date within a more reasonable amount of time.
Requesting an On-the-Record Review
On-the-record (OTR) reviews are simple: The applicant, or the applicant’s attorney, request that the hearing office review the applicant’s file/record before the hearing date. In order for the hearing office to agree to an OTR review, the applicant must demonstrate legitimate medical need. If the applicant’s condition has worsened since they originally applied for benefits, or if the applicant’s health is deteriorating rapidly, they will stand a much better chance at being granted an OTR review. Applicants hope that, by requesting an OTR review, their case will be approved by the hearing office without having to wait to appear before the Administrative Law Judge. If a hearing examiner could review the file/record and award the applicant benefits right away, they would not need to continue the waiting process.
While these options may help speed up the hearing process, the majority of applicants who are not in desperate situations will need to simply wait out the months until they are able to appear before an Administrative Law Judge. While waiting can be frustrating, it is important to remember that patience does pay off for most applicants at this stage.