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Social Security disability claim approval dropping

The news for New Jersey claimants for Social Security disability benefits is discouraging. For the first time in 30 years, in 2016 the number of persons receiving these benefits dropped from the previous year. The Social Security Administration is also issuing new federal regulations that may make it more difficult to become eligible for SSD benefits.

The number of recipients dropped from 8.89 million in January 2016 to 8.79 million at the beginning of this year. This is the lowest number of recipients in approximately five years.

Annual applications for these benefits also dropped after reaching a record 2.93 million in 2010. Last year, this declined to 2.32 million in 2016. Approval of claims also sank from 44.6 percent in 2002 to approximately 32 percent in 2014.

Federal eligibility rules are also becoming more stringent. After March 27, the SSA's regulations will eliminate the treating physician rule which requires its adjudicators to give significant weight to disability evidence presented by a claimant's health providers in hearings. Opponents of this regulation argue that this new rule may give greater credence to medical evidence provided by health practitioners who did not treat the claimant, including those who work with the SSA.

Moreover, for those denied Social Security, an appeal continues to be a time-consuming process. One public advocate blames a continuous lack of funding from Congress for the delay.

One attorney claimed that it takes approximately two years to have a hearing before an administrative law judge. He said that approximately 1.4 million claimants are waiting for a disability hearing.

Waiting for a hearing can be catastrophic for those with an inability to work and are not receiving income. A claimant's disability can also change or worsen during this wait.

An attorney can help a claimant file for SSD benefits and present the strongest claim possible. Legal assistance can help eliminate errors that delay the processing of these benefits and appeals.

Source: The Indiana Lawyer, "Disability claims approval getting tougher," By Dave Stafford, March 22, 2017

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