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SSA announces changes concerning the SSDI program

The most common complaint that most in St. Louis hear about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is that the qualification system is flawed and in need of revisions. As external pressure has mounted recently to address concerns regarding fraud and abuse, and with a potential fiscal crisis looming over the SSDI program, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced plans to make changes to the current applicant evaluation process.

Chief among those will be maintaining greater oversight over the Social Security judges hired to hear applicant disputes. Proposed changes include required training for those judges whose approval numbers fall outside of the norm. Another is to address the complaints of judges who claim that the pressure to handle a large caseload discourages them from dedicating the time needed to accurately assess each individual case. Thus, the number of cases that a judge may hear annually has been capped at around 800 cases.

Outdated documentation is another area that the SSA plans to address. Current job dictionaries used to determine whether applicants can reasonably find employment in their areas have not been updated since the technology boom began to offer new job opportunities for those forced to work sedentary jobs. Also being revised is the so-called "grid," or the guidelines judges use to determine benefit eligibility. Many feel as though seasoned attorneys understand those guidelines too well, and are thus able to fashion applications designed to game the system.

Social Security lawyers themselves will come under greater scrutiny from the SSA, as will the doctors who endorse applications for their patients. The SSA also plans to better enforce its policy of full disclosure of applicant information from attorneys.

These proposed changes, while bold, could likely take years to take effect. In the meantime, anyone needing assistance in the form of SSDI should continue to seek it under current guidelines. Those with questions regarding those guidelines may wish to ask them of a Social Security attorney.

Source: The Wall Street Journal "Six Changes Social Security Is Making To Its Disability Program" Damian Paletta, Dec. 26, 2013

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