It is not a secret to many Schenectady, New York, residents that the process of getting Social Security Disability benefits can take a long time, as the Social Security Administration’s backlog of cases is notoriously large. This means that New York residents often have to wait for months or even years in order to appeal their denial of benefits to an administrative law judge. Particularly for those who need these benefits because they are out of work and no longer have a livelihood, this wait can be very frustrating.

In one sense, an attorney can do anything to speed up the process other than make sure their client’s application is thorough, accurate and complete to the extent that the Administration has no questions. The fact a lawyer appears for disability applicant does not automatically speed up the process. Nevertheless, there are certain things an attorney can do that may help.

So long as an applicant qualifies, an attorney can submit what is called a “dire need” letter. The “dire need” letter basically explains that, unless a New Yorker gets benefits soon, he or she will be out of a home or will no longer be able to afford necessary medical treatment. Dire need letter may or may not work, although they can, if effective, move an applicant to the top of the list of claims that need a hearing.

In the right type of case, an attorney can also ask for a review “on the record,” meaning the administrative law judge need not hold a hearing at all but can proceed to a decision based on the documentation that has been submitted. While obviously a time-saver, this is a risky move since it could mean a judge makes an unfavorable decision without hearing the disabled person’s side of the story completely. Then end result in that situation may well be worse than a long wait for a hearing.

As most disability applications get denied at the outset, a New Yorker who needs benefits is likely going to need a hearing before an administrative law judge. While there is no guarantee, there are techniques an attorney can use to help expedite this process.