Will a Dire Need Letter Help Expedite a Social Security Disability Decision?

A "dire need letter" may help you get a Social Security disability decision a few months earlier.

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What is "dire need" and what are "dire need situations"? Unfortunately, a great many disability claimants are personally familiar with financial hardship; situations such as no longer being able to acquire medications, obtain needed hospital treatment, or pay for critical expenses, such as utilities, rent, or mortgage costs. 

To a reasonable mindset, situations of this sort should easily fall under the heading of "dire need." Yet this is not the view typically taken by the Social Security Administration. Unfortunately, the simple reality is that a disability claimant's crumbling finances or inability to obtain physician care are not considered to be relevant concerns during the evaluation and processing of a disability benefit claim. 

However, after a claimant's case has traveled through the initial claim and reconsideration steps, and after a disability hearing in front of an ALJ (administrative law judge) has been requested, the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR, formerly the Office of Hearings and Appeals) may take note of a dire need situation. By this time, of course, a disability claim may easily have been lodged in the system for up to a year, if not longer. 

If you write a dire need letter and send it to the closest ODAR office, you have a chance of getting a hearing scheduled a few months earlier. The letter should provide a level of detail sufficient enough to thoroughly and compellingly explain your financial situation. Attach copies of any late notices you may have received from utility providers, landlords, or mortgage providers. 

In many cases, shaving a few months off the wait for a hearing can mean the difference between a claimant being able to weather the disability appeal process or losing everything everything he or she has accumulated prior to becoming disabled. For this reason, claimants whose situations have become precarious should consider drafting a dire need letter requesting that their disability hearing be expedited. Learn more about what a dire need letter should look like.

By: Tim Moore, former disability claims examiner for Social Security

Updated by: , J.D.

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