Rule revisions may impact new SSD claims

People seeking Social Security Disability benefits in Illinois are often familiar with the application process and eligibility standards. The guidelines for both have remained consistent for years. However, the Social Security Administration is now changing aspects of the SSD application and decision process. As any attorney Social Security knows, these changes could affect many applicants.

Revised grid rules

The SSA automatically considers people disabled if they suffer from certain conditions. Otherwise, the SSA uses medical-vocational grids to make disability determinations. These grids dictate when a person should be found disabled, based on age, work history, education and functional abilities.

The SSA is updating these grids to reflect modern working conditions. For instance, in numerous occupations, employees can now reasonably work gainfully after retirement age. However, the current medical-vocational grids treat age as a substantial limiting factor in a person’s ability to work. The updated grids may reflect the feasibility of work at older ages, among other changes.

Updated vocational listings

Before awarding disability benefits, the SSA must judge whether a person can work in any capacity. A vocational expert evaluates a person’s ability to pursue new work by analyzing the person’s experience and relevant skills. The expert then considers whether the applicant could perform more than 10,000 listed jobs.

The SSA is revising these listings, which have not been updated in 20 years, to reflect new job opportunities. The new listings will include jobs that did not previously exist, such as sedentary jobs in the technology industry. The revisions may be finished as early as 2016.

Mandatory evidence disclosure

Currently, SSD claimants are not required to share information that may harm their claims. The expectation for legal representatives is unclear. Some people contend legal professionals have a duty to secure benefits for clients. Others believe an attorney Social Security should ensure all relevant information is submitted with each claim.

The SSA is considering a rule explicitly requiring disclosure of all medical information pertinent to a claim. The new rule may establish guidelines for both parties.

Judicial changes

Other pending changes will affect administrative law judges. The SSA is increasing oversight of these judges. Those with abnormal approval or denial rates may be subject to training. Removing judges from their posts may also become easier.

The SSA is also reducing the number of cases administrative law judges can take. Due to backlog, some judges used to work on hundreds more cases than advised. The SSA has established caps to ensure judges have adequate time to review every claim. As any attorney Social Security knows, this change may benefit claimants with complex cases that require careful consideration.