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New rules may mean more denials, longer waits

A previous post on this blog discussed the Social Security Administration's new rule which removes the requirement that the Administration give special deference to the opinion of a person's treating physician when making a disability determination. Now, some are suggesting that the new rule is going to lead to more denials of benefits and longer waits for administrative hearings in an already backlogged system.

Currently, less than half of all applicants, about 45 percent, get their request for disability benefits during the initial review stage. What this means is that most people who apply for benefits will have to ask for an administrative law judge to review the case, and this usually requires a hearing. Unfortunately, since the Great Recession hit, the administrative law judges have been swamped with a backlog of cases. It can take months or even years to get on the hearing calendar.

The concern with this new rule is that now the Administration can hang its hat on information from any medical expert, including one who has only seen the patient one time or has just reviewed the patient's records. This in turn means the possibility of more denials, since a person's treating physician does not have any special clout if he or she says a person is disabled. The possibility of a denial is more prominent in cases where a person is suffering from a condition that may not be readily apparent.

While proponents of the new rule said it would prevent the possibility of collusion between an applicant for benefits and a treating physician who is willing to call just about any medical problem a "disability," the reality may be that the rule will serve only to slow down the process of getting benefits to deserving Charlotte, North Carolina residents.

In this legal climate, the assistance of an experienced Social Security attorney in filling out an application for benefits may prove to be invaluable.

Source: NPR, "Long waits and long odds for those who need Social Security disability," Alex Smith, June 13, 2017.

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  • North Carolina Advocates for Justice Protecting People’s rights
  • NOSSCR National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives
  • American Association for Justice formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America ATLA
  • ABA American Bar Association
  • NOVA
  • North Carolina State Bar
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