An Independent View of Social Security
Getting Social Security disability without a hearing is called an "OTR, or On the Record" decision. It is where a judge reviews your case and finds compelling evidence that you are indeed disabled under Social Security rules and grants you a favorable decision without a hearing, based solely on the medical file. These decisions are somewhat rare, so don't get your hopes up. Judges do not have to make favorable decisions just because you meet the listing in the handbook; but, they often do. Some judges want a hearing to hear testimony, no matter what the listing.
Now, IF the judge grants you a favorable decision, how long do you wait to get benefits? Decisions are not official until they are written. That takes about 6 weeks (to get the award letter). Now, you are officially on file as approved for benefits. You may get your first monthly check in 45 to 60 days from the time you get the award letter. Retroactive benefits (back pay) takes longer, usually about 90 days from the date of the award letter. If there is both disability and SSI involved, it can take a bit longer. SSI backpay offsets the Social Security disability back pay (insuring that you do not get paid more in back pay than you would have got if your original application had been approved). So, if SSI is also involved, it will slow down the backpay somewhat. SSI is usually paid in 3 installments, the last one being paid 12 months after the favorable ruling. But as I said, the disability portion of the back pay should come within about 3 months. If you have not received it within 90 days from the date on your award letter, call the Social Security administration at 1-800-772-1213. If you are working with an attorney, he/she will keep track of payments for you. Remember, Social Security moves in the SLOW time zone, and attorneys can't do much to speed up the process. It just takes as long as it takes. Obviously, if your case as "jumped the track," your attorney should be able to correct it. But trying to speed up Social Security's process is like trying to push a Mack truck up a hill. Good luck with the decision.