The Social Security Disability (SSD) system is an important safety net that provides income to disabled children and to adults if the individual and family has a limited income or if the individual has earned a sufficient number of work credits and is now too disabled to work. The SSD program has a number of very strict qualifying requirements and is tightly regulated to ensure that only the truly disabled are eligible to receive benefits.
Our Boston disability lawyers know that the Social Security Administration is currently undergoing a number of different changes to the organization and operation of the SSD system. The Wall Street Journal has provided a summary of these changes, which can affect any applicants who are disabled and who are in need of disability benefits.
Changes to the SSD System
Some of the changes that are currently planned for the SSD system include the following:
- Changes to the job title lists. When an applicant seeks disability benefits, the SSA considers whether he or she can do any local jobs that he is qualified for despite being disabled. There is a “dictionary” of job titles that vocational experts use to try to match the applicant’s skill with local jobs. The dictionary has not been updated since 1991 and has job titles including “blacksmith” and “showgirl” in it. Changes need to be made to eliminate jobs that are not common any more and to add in jobs that exist because of new technologies. The rewrite of this dictionary could take until 2016, or longer.
- Changes to the “grid” that administrative law judges use to help determine if someone qualifies for benefits. The “grid” considers age, disability and educational status but it has not been updated for a long time and some believe it has become too easy to “work” the grid and qualify for benefits by knowing what judges expect. The grid is currently being updated and revised.
- Changes to disclosure rules that prevent applicants from withholding information that could affect eligibility for benefits. These changes are prompted by accusations that some disability firms are withholding medical records that could undermine an application.
- Capping the ALJ’s caseloads. Administrative law judges are handling more than 1,000 cases a year in some cases, making it impossible to give cases the full consideration they deserve. The cap has been lowered in recent years on the number of cases that ALJs can hear and it is expected to be lowered again.
- Launching a task force to look for disability fraud. The SSA and the inspector general are creating a task force to identify whether third parties including doctors are cheating the system or facilitating fraud.
- Job description changes. The SSA is changing the job descriptions of administrative law judges to make clear that they are subject to supervision and oversight.
These changes are expected to improve the system, but could also make it harder in some ways for applicants to qualify for benefits. It is important for all applicants to understand the current regulations and to get the necessary help in applying for benefits.
If you are considering filing for SSD benefits in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
More Blog Entries:
Disabled Workers Struggle to Find Jobs and are Paid Less, Nov. 5, 2013, Boston Social Security Disability Lawyer Blog