In recent years, many of my clients have found themselves in desperate need of financial help while they were waiting to be approved for Social Security Disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes that some claimants are in need of expedited processing of their claims for disability benefits. The SSA has issued policy directives which state that the following five situations comprise “dire need” and warrant an expedited processing on the part of the Social Security Administration:

  1. The claimant’s illness is terminal;
  2. The case is a “military service casualty case” (described as an injury which occurred on or after October 1, 2001);
  3. The case is flagged as a “compassionate allowance” case;
  4. The claimant is without, and is unable to obtain food, medicine or shelter;
  5. There is an indication that the claimant is suicidal or homicidal.

The Social Security regulations state that a dire need exists when a person has insufficient resources or income to meet an immediate threat to health or safety. The lack of resources includes lack of food, clothing, medication or shelter. 

Arecent article in the Social Security Forum states that absent evidence to the contrary, the SSA personnel should accept a person’s allegation that he/she does not have enough income or resources to meet an immediate threat to his or her safety. The regulations state, “Err on the side or expediting, versus not expediting.” (See Social Security Forum, Vol. 32, No.11)

However since so many claimants now find themselves in desperate need, is this Social Security regulation really helping the neediest of claimants get their benefits on an expedited basis? My experience has been that the SSA’s response to requests for expedited processing in the appropriate circumstances is not always timely, and does not always lead to expedited processing. In fact, I find that the quickest way for my clients to get their case processed is to write to their congressperson. The local congressperson (who goes to Washington D.C.) seems to have the most pull in getting a claimant’s case considered on an expedited basis. The local office of your congressperson will consider your hardship if you send a letter or call with a request. I tell my clients to take that step if they are in dire need — and in most cases their claim is then reviewed by the SSA on an expedited basis.