The application and appeals process for Social Security disability benefits can be lengthy and complex. An experienced attorney makes the process much easier and can often achieve a better outcome than applicants may get on their own, but there is only so much that can be done to improve efficiency from outside the “system.”
Increasing amounts of regulation only add to an already slow and laborious Social Security disability application/appeals process. Unfortunately, due to pressure from U.S. lawmakers, the Social Security Administration is proposing a change that could lengthen the process, reduce application approval rates or both.
In short, members of Congress are worried that some SSD applicants or their attorneys are withholding relevant information that, if disclosed, might reduce their chances of being approved. The SSA wants to tighten regulations and require applicants to submit “all evidence known to you that relates to whether or not you are blind or disabled. This would include evidence that may be either favorable or unfavorable to your claim.”
It is unclear what percentage of applicants/attorneys are purposely withholding information that could influence approval/denial decisions. It’s also unclear how enforcement of the proposed regulations would work.
Applying for SSD requires a lot of data gathering. This includes extensive medical records, often from several different doctors and sometimes from several different states. If “relevant medical information” gets overlooked during this data-gathering process, how will the SSA determine if omission of this data was willful or accidental?
Hopefully, the SSA’s proposal will be deemed impractical and will not be implemented. If it is, however, we must hope that it does not become yet another barrier making it unreasonably harder for SSD applicants to be approved for benefits.
Source: Wall Street Journal, “Social Security Proposes to Tighten Rules on Disability Appeals,” Damian Paletta, Mar. 6, 2014