Abromson & Carey, Attorneys at Law
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Approval for disability benefits delayed for many

Obstacles were increasing for many claimants in New Jersey and nationwide seeking Social Security disability benefits over the last several years. Currently, only approximately 45 percent of claimants are approved for SSD benefits.

Claimants must wait, on average, 600 days for an eligibility hearing. Currently, over one million claimants across the United States are awaiting hearings. This situation was further aggravated by the 10 percent reduction in the Social Security Administration's operating budget since 2010.

The backlog increased 10 years ago during the recession. Many claimants who had disabilities applied for SSD benefits although they were not necessarily incapable of working. Many of these claimants could engage in work but lost their jobs because of poor economic conditions before applying for benefits.

New requirements pose another obstacle. Recent measures were introduced earlier this year that were designed to combat fraud and expedite applications.

One significant change was the removal of the special consideration that the SSA would place on the opinion of the claimant's long-time physician. Now, evidence from the treating doctor would be treated equally as evidence from a medical consultant who was hired to perform one brief examination or from a consultant who performs a review of the medical documents without conducting a medical examination.

Denials may increase for claimants with lupus, multiple sclerosis or schizophrenia or other complicated illnesses which affect patients differently and pose assessment difficulties for health practitioners who conduct one brief exam or perform a paper review. One expert claims that the existing backlog may grow because of more claimants being denied social security and more appeals which will aggravate the existing backlog.

A former SSA administrator, however, claims that the agency can still place priorities on benefit applications. The SSA must combat fraud such as the rare cases where a treating doctor unduly emphasize the strength of their patient's case, according to this administrator.

Meeting federal requirements for eligibility for SSD benefits is becoming more complex. An attorney may assist claimants pursue their rights and appeal denials of benefits.

Source: KCUR, "New rule may worsen backlog for Social Security disability claimants," Alex Smith, June 7, 2017

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