FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2013-03-15
A person who can no longer work due to injury or illness may apply to the Social Security Administration for disability benefits. The application process, however, is often unsuccessful in the early stages. Nearly two-thirds of applications are rejected initially. This does not mean the quest for benefits is over, but it does mean that many people must appeal in order to obtain the Social Security Disability benefits they need. For some applicants, an on-the-record decision, or OTR, is a worthwhile option during the appeals process.
Types of Appeals
When a claimant receives a denial notification, he or she will receive options for appealing the decision with the notification. A claimant or that claimant’s attorney can request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), but the disability hearing timeline may involve months or more than a year of waiting. In some cases, a second option is to request an on-the-record review at the same time or after a hearing has been requested. If the OTR decision is favorable, the claimant will not need to wait for a hearing on the application.
About OTR Decisions
Federal regulations allow administrative law judges to approve disability claims based on the medical records and other written evidence provided by the applicant. Administrative law judges or attorney adjudicators can decide to give this OTR approval on their own, or an applicant can request an OTR decision.
Requesting an on-the-record review is a good option for SSD applicants who have medical evidence that is strong enough to secure approval without having a hearing before an administrative law judge. The documentation with an OTR request should include complete and compelling information about the claimant’s medical condition and statements from medical professionals that substantiate the need for disability benefits. The SSA reviews all documentation to make a decision about whether the claimant should receive disability benefits.
Benefits of OTR Reviews
Requesting an OTR review can benefit claimants in several ways:
- Approval may come faster. An on-the-record decision can occur before the hearing, which could be set months or more than a year away.
- Claimants can avoid a hearing. For many, the idea of going to a hearing, finding witnesses and having to testify is frightening. With an OTR review, that stressor may be avoided.
- There is no penalty for requesting an OTR review. If an OTR request is denied, the case is not over because the claimant can still wait for the hearing. At the hearing, the claimant will be able to have witnesses and provide more information about why the claim should be approved.
While a claimant for SSA disability benefits can legally handle the OTR, hearing and other appeals procedures without legal counsel, he or she has the right to be represented by an attorney. A lawyer who has handled all aspects of disability cases may be in the best position to secure benefits for claimants. Experienced lawyers understand what information an ALJ needs, can work with doctors to make sure that medical information is properly expressed, and can efficiently follow the complex procedures involved with the hearing process. This knowledge can expedite the process and help the claimant obtain the benefits he or she needs.