The Social Security Administration (SSA) processes certain disability claims more quickly than others by using a "Quick Disability Determination" (QDD) process. QDD claims are not limited to particular types of illnesses or impairments.
The SSA runs a software program that flags disability applications for physical or mental impairments that are likely to qualify for disability benefits. Applications that have been flagged then move to the QDD unit. You cannot refer your own claim to the QDD; the DDS will make this decision internally. But, because the disability examiner handling your file can have input into whether your claim will go to the QDD, there is no reason you cannot ask the examiner whether he or she will be referring your claim to the QDD and the reason for that decision.
A disability examiner in the QDD unit should then quickly evaluate the file, request medical records if necessary, and decide if the impairment amounts to a disabling condition that prevents the applicant from working. The SSA finalized regulations in 2010 permitting QDD examiners to allow claims without showing them to a DDS medical consultant, although they can choose to do so if they wish. However, QDD examiners are not allowed to deny a claim without input from a medical consultant.
If your claim is fairly straightforward, your medical records are submitted quickly to the QDD, and you didn't state in your application that your disability started a long time ago, you have a good chance of getting a disability decision within a month.
Your claim will be sent out of the QDD process and into the regular process for disability determinations if:
If that happens, your case will start over at Disability Determination Services (DDS, the state agency that processes claims for the SSA), and you may get an initial decision in several months.
If your claim isn't selected for the QDD program, the SSA provides several other programs that expedite processing for serious disabilities.
Advanced cancers and a few other illnesses qualify for faster decision making through the Compassionate Allowance program.
Similarly, any illness that is expected to be terminal can qualify for expedited processing through the Terminal Illness program (TERI).
Another program doesn't speed up the decision making process, but does pay benefits while an applicant is waiting for a disability decision. That program is for "presumptive disabilities," and is for SSI applicants only.