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Proposed Rules Could Restrict Social Security Disability Appeals

Posted on Mar 28, 2014

Congress has put tremendous pressure on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to tighten its rules. Now, as a response to some of this pressure, the SSA has proposed a new rule that would require people applying for Social Security disability benefits to submit all medical information relevant to their claim.

The law came after reports exposed some applicants and people going through the Social Security disability appeal process failed to turn over certain critical information. According to the SSA, reports showed that there were allegations of people withholding information that could be detrimental to their case. The SSA admitted that this finding is correct and that many people do not submit all the necessary evidence in their applications.

Under the new proposed rules, the SSA would require people to submit all evidence, regardless of whether the evidence would be favorable or unfavorable to a claim.

The new rule would place the legal burden on the applicant, not the Social Security disability lawyer assisting with the application or appeal. The reason is the SSA wanted to avoid any challenges brought on by attorney-client privilege.

When an applicant goes through the denial process, they often end up at a hearing in front of a Social Security judge. This hearing has a lot of factors that must be taken into consideration. One requirement is that the judge has the medical evidence necessary to decide the case. Because the judges are under tremendous pressure to make fast judgments on a case, they usually do not seek additional information than what is initially provided. In some cases, this means that they make judgments without seeing the full details behind a person’s disability.

Some people within the legal community disagree with the federal law requiring that all medical evidence be handed to the judge. The reason is that it can hamper the ethical obligations that Massachusetts Social Security disability lawyers (and lawyers around the country) have for giving their clients help with their cases.

The proposal is still being negotiated, and the SSA has requested feedback. The changes could be made in the coming months.

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John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney of Keefe Disability Law