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Social Security Administration Makes Changes to the System. But is it Really Getting any Easier to Receive Disability Benefits?

Santa Monica, CA -May 3- Effective August 1, 2006, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will implement major changes in disability benefits programs. Though changes are aimed at getting benefits faster, they may be making it more complicated. A statement from the SSA states that in 2005 “those denied benefits initially and again upon appeal had to wait on average 14 months for a decision.” Thus, review times on SSI and SSDI claims are excessively slow for those in need of disability income. Ronald Miller, managing director of Disability Group states, “The time to apply for benefits is now, before changes in the system further limit the rights of claimants.”

New Time Limits to Submit Evidence Prejudice Claimants Whose Disabilities are Getting Worse

Today, claimants are permitted to submit medical evidence documenting their condition until the day of their hearing. When the SSA changes go into effect, claimants will be required to submit all evidence to the judge no later than 5 business days before the hearing. Late evidence will only be allowed under narrow exceptions if such evidence would affect the outcome of the case. Therefore, claimants who have evidence of their illnesses getting progressively worse will not be able to submit all records up to the date of the actual hearing.

New Medical and Vocational Expert System May Reduce Claimant’s Ability to Get a Fair Hearing

Today, judges are able to use the medical and vocational experts they know are reliable. When SSA’s changes go into effect, a new Medical and Vocational Expert System (MVES) will be established and it will oversee a national network of experts. Judges will then only be able to choose experts listed under the MVES. As of now, no qualification criteria have been published for these experts.

Termination of the Appeals Council

Today, the Appeals Council is the most significant check on the disability system, as it reviews all the determinations made by judges. Elimination of the Council was opposed by NOSSCR and NADR. Once SSA’s changes go into effect, a new body called the Decision Review Board will be created to replace the old Appeals Council. Claimants with unfavorable decisions will have to request a review. However, the Board requires a statement based on law and fact, explaining why the claimant disagrees with the judge’s opinion. This usually requires the need for representation due to the technical legal arguments that must be made to the Board.

On average, 63 of 100 initial disability claims are denied and only one third of those appeal and win benefits. Statistics show that SSI and SSDI claimants who have professional representation are more successful in obtaining benefits than those representing themselves.

Always consult with an experienced social security disability professional when you need help getting your disability benefits.

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