According to a recent news feature from Forbes, the media focus on the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the United States Social Security Agency (SSA), which oversees the disability benefits program, is nothing new.
In 2013, NPR ran a series explaining how the number of Americans collecting disability benefits was increasing and showed the SSDI program as being outdated and mismanaged. It also implied many of the people collecting Social Security disability benefits were exaggerating their illnesses or other disability to get benefits to which they were not rightfully entitled. The exaggeration of benefits is known as malingering by administrative law judges (ALJs) who oversee hearings and make determinations as to whether a denial of benefits by SSA employees was correct.
After NPR aired its series on the problems with the disability benefits programs, there was a large response and follow-up by other media agencies on this particular issue, and at least eight prior SSA commissioners spoke out about how this story was not accurately portraying the agency or the situation. The eight prior commissioners signed a joint letter explaining their position.
As our Boston disability attorneys can explain, despite the constant allegations that most people are malingering and getting benefits to which they are not rightfully entitled, the vast majority of those receiving SSDI benefits are truly disabled and could not take care of themselves or their families without benefits. Most people would much rather go back to work and not be disabled than sit at home, contrary to what is often suggested. The reason we known this is because of how difficult SSA makes it for people to obtain benefits.
First, SSA rejects far more than half of all applications as soon as they are received. There is usually no reason given other than the claimant is not disabled. At this point, the claimant can appeal in writing by submitting an appeal form. However, at this level, a coworker of the SSA employee who denied the applications reviews the initial denial. It is very rare for an application initially denied to be approved at this stage in the process. A claimant who has been initially denied and then denied again in writing may file for a hearing before an ALJ. With the help of an experienced disability benefits attorney, this is often your best chance for obtaining benefits.
Those who go into an ALJ hearing without an attorney are at a significant disadvantage, because of the manner in which a typical hearing is conducted. The ALJ will call on a so-called Vocational Expert (VE) hired by SSA to use a Dictionary of Occupational Titles from the 1970s to show how claimant can, in fact, work, and then there will be a series of other professionals hired by SSA to state why claimant is not disabled. Your attorney will be better prepared to deal with the complexities of the hearing.
Despite the hurdles that must be overcome to get benefits, this article states the number of SSDI benefits claims paid each year is continuing to rise. There a variety of reasons for this, including an aging population and shifts in demographics; but, regardless of the cause, the author suggests this will lead to a major budgetary issue with which Congress will finally be forced to deal.
If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
The Boom In Disability Benefits, June 30, 2015, Forbes
More Blog Entries:
Congress Ready to Fight Over SSDI Funding, Jan. 18, 2015, Boston Social Security Disability Lawyer Blog