Appealing a rejection of Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in New York City may soon get harder, as the federal agency, bowing under political pressure, seeks to increase the threshold of proof for claimants.
Our New York accident attorneys have learned that the new proposed rules would require all appellants to present all "relevant" medical evidence in their case.
The supposed reason behind this requirement, which was recently published in the Federal Register, is that the SSA offices became aware of some situations in which disability claimant attorneys were withholding certain pieces of information that could be deemed detrimental to their case.
However, there is no evidence that these kinds of actions, even if they did occur, were widespread to any degree. In fact, the Inspector General's Office has repeatedly underscored the fact that SSDI fraud rates are extremely low.
Part of the reason for that is because it is already so difficult to be approved for benefits. Statistically, 70 percent of all SSDI claims are denied right off the bat. Your chances of approval do increase the higher up you appeal, and you are more likely to be approved if you are represented by an attorney. If and when you are finally awarded benefits, you would likely be entitled to be compensated retroactively for the time you were forced to go without.
These new requirements could make it more difficult because it will increase the amount of time that will be required for each case. It was always the claimant's burden of proof to begin with. According to The Wall Street Journal, this requirement means that applicants would have to turn over all medical information, regardless of whether it is beneficial or detrimental to their claim. In essence, they could be forced to help make a case against themselves.
Applying for SSDI and then appealing an initial rejection are both complex processes. When applying, the initial determination is made by a state agency. If a person is denied, he or she can re-apply and then request a hearing before a Social Security judge.
At that point, it is up to the judge to develop the records, which means or she has to gather up the necessary medical evidence. There is no question that judges are often overburdened, and are sometimes required to decide numerous cases each day. Judges do have the authority to request further medical information, but they frequently do not because they may not know exactly which records to pursue.
Still, it seems inherently unfair to ask people to present information that could be detrimental to their own case. It goes against a core principle of the legal world. The better solution, which has been proposed time and again, would be the introduction of more SSDI judges. As it now stands, the SSA receives some 3.2 million applications and 820,000 requests for hearings annually. More judges would mean reduced case loads with more time to render a thoughtful decision.
The SSA has requested feedback on this new proposal, and it's highly probable that some alterations could be made to it within the next several months.
We'll be watching closely.
Contact the Law Offices of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP today by calling (800) 692-3717.