A Wall Street Journal article recently identified changes in the way Social Security will determine whether someone is eligible for disability benefits.
The past couple years have seen intensive media coverage of potential fraud within the disability system. In response, the Social Security Administration plans changes, though they may not affect applicants immediately
The Social Security Administration plans to revise its listing of types of jobs that SSD applicants may be deemed eligible to perform. The existing grids and listings used to determine whether an applicant can work are outdated. Sedentary jobs created by online technology have become the norm for many but do not exist in the current pool of jobs that Social Security recognizes. Adding these jobs may mean that applicants are less likely to receive benefits.
The Social Security Administration does not base its decision on whether the job is available, but on whether it exists. So if your age, background, and functional limitations suggest that you can still function as a telemarketer, it does not matter if you live thousands of miles from the closest call center.
Judges Will Have Smaller Caseloads but Face Pressure to Award Fewer Benefits.
Administrative law judges handle cases during the disability application appeals process. Large backlogs have raised caseloads, but judges have been pushing back. They say they are rushed and not able to look carefully at cases. The annual cap on cases is currently 800 per judge but may decrease again.
The workload may be less crushing, but the scrutiny may make up for this difference. Administrative law judges traditionally had significant leeway in how they handled cases. The rate at which they approve cases, however, is now being tracked. If judges approve a higher than average number of SSD applications, they may be pushed toward renewed training. This is a relatively mild response, but it indicates increasing pressure to approve fewer cases.
Many applicants use lawyers and doctors to help them navigate the maze that is the Social Security disability application and appeals process. Legal representation does provide an advantage. SSD lawyers have experience and understand the system. They can help applicants avoid common pitfalls and ensure that applications are complete and coherent.