An "on the record" (OTR) request asks Social Security to grant your case on the record without a hearing. This request is for claims pending at the hearing level at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR).
OTRs are favored by Social Security, because they save valuable resources. Why go though all the work of preparing a case for hearing if it is going to be granted anyway? ODARs around the country have empowered staff attorneys to review on the record requests and prepare fully favorable decisions. It just saves time.
What's nice about on the record decisions is that they can only be fully favorable. You cannot lose your case on the record. Rather, if the OTR request is denied, your claim simply goes back in line for an eventual hearing.
Although there is nothing to lose by filing an OTR request, they should only be filed in a minority of cases, where a favorable result is mandated by the evidence and by Social Security's disability evaluation process. Also, the medical evidence in the record should be up to date before an on the record request is filed.
Two areas where an OTR is certainly appropriate are 1) if the claimant meets a listed impairment, or 2) if the claim would be decided favorably at step 5 by the Medical-Vocational Guidelines. Such claims are clear-cut winners. Claims that require a decision based on subjective evidence (such as the level of your pain), or claims that would require vocational evidence, are not strong candidates for an on the record decision.