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SSA revises rules for SSD claims, making process more consistent

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has revised its rules regarding Social Security Disability (SSD) claims so procedures at the hearing and Appeals Council levels of the administrative review process are consistent nationwide. The agency anticipates these new procedures will enable them to administer disability programs more efficiently and better serve the public.

The National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR), commented on the rules prior to their approval, and some of its recommendations were included in the new regulations.

“Due to our recommendations, hearing notices will be provided 75 days prior to the hearing, rather than the current 20 days,” said Kevin J. Bambury, attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC.,  “And there was a clarification of the ‘good cause’ exception rule, that will allow exceptions to the deadlines for subpoena requests; objections to issues raised in the notice of hearing; and pre-hearing written statements.  This will be a big help to claimants and their representatives.”

The SSA did not, however, comply with NOSSCR’s request regarding the “five-day” rule, which says claimants must submit evidence or inform the SSA of the existence of evidence at least five business days prior to the hearing.

“In my experience, some important and timely medical documentation might not become available until the eve of the hearing.  A claimant must have the opportunity to fully complete the record by including new and relevant evidence – this new rule could have a negative impact for the claimants ability to make this happen,” Bambury said.

The final rule also includes the five-day deadline for pre-hearing statements, but it does allow post-hearing statements.  The rule will take effect January 16, 2017, however compliance is not required until May 1, 2017.

In other news, Bambury participated in a NOSSCR conference where Judge Frank Cristaudo, executive counselor to the Commissioner of the SSA, spoke about the agency’s concerns regarding funding cuts and the effects on the backlog and service.  In the face of the current budget situation, Cristaudo recommended claimants’ representatives file appeals online; cooperate in a timely manner with requests from Disability Determination Services (DDS); avoid requesting postponements; submit evidence early; and accept video hearings for their clients when possible.

“The rules and processes for Social Security Disability claims continually become more complex and demanding for both claimants and representatives,” Bambury said.  “It’s imperative attorneys who represent these clients keep up with the changes in order to provide the best possible service.”