I recently submitted an on the record (OTR) request to the Manchester, New Hampshire hearing office. It was a particularly strong case, with compelling evidence of disability. Further, much of the evidence (school records, vocational rehabilitation assessments, medical source statements from treating doctors) had not been developed by DDS or considered when the claim was initially denied.
I filed that OTR request on a Monday. Before 9 AM on Wednesday morning I got a call from a staff member at the Manchester hearing office saying that a judge had reviewed the claim and that a fully favorable decision would be issued. So less than 48 hours after I submitted the OTR request, I learned that it would be granted. That is tremendous efficiency, by any standard. Perhaps this is one reason why the average processing time for claims at the Manchester hearing office continues to improve.
There are a three quick lessons from this experience:
- You should file on the record request when you have a clear winner. The hearing office judges and staff will take advantage of the opportunity to resolve the claim without having to expend the resources required for a hearing. And of course, the client avoids the stress of a hearing and will appreciate the award of disability benefits.
- I have done better with OTR requests since I started explaining why the DDS decision was wrong. Rather than just ask for a favorable decision, I point out the errors made by DDS, and how those mistakes affected the DDS determination. Often, if the DDS mistakes are corrected (and the new evidence considered), a fully favorable decision is appropriate. So don't treat the OTR request like a de novo review of the claim; instead, explain why the determination below was erroneous.
- Finally, if you are an attorney-advisor or judge's assistant at a Social Security hearing office, and you are granting an OTR request, give the claimant's attorney a call! It's a welcome professional courtesy, and believe me, that lawyer will be happy to talk with you.