The Bar Association of Erie County’s Committee for the Disabled recently held a continuing education seminar on Social Security Disability: The State of ODAR (Office of Disability Adjudication and Review). Christopher J. Grover Esq., of Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC, is the committee chair. The program focused on the Social Security Administration’s new rules regarding disability claims.
“There have been several new rules that will significantly affect this practice area,” Grover said. “The most predominant changes were made in the medical listings for mental health disorders and the new 5-day rule for the submission of evidence.”
Judge Michael Devlin, Acting Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge, spoke to the group of 40 attorneys about the changes, additions, and omissions to the new mental health listings. He also discussed a 2016 ruling, which changes the evaluation process for a person’s complaints about the severity of their condition.
“Judge Devlin emphasized that the main purpose of the ruling is to weigh the claimant’s subjective symptoms with the objective findings, rather than examining the claimant’s character or credibility,” Grover said.
Mark Starosielec, Esq., Hearing Office Director, discussed ODAR’s plans to address the lengthy SSD claims processing wait times and backlog. The local office, he said, has implemented a program to have other offices hear cases, and has established an “all hands on deck” approach to decision writing in order to speed up post-hearing wait times. He also talked about the new five-day rule for submission of evidence, which requires claimants and their representatives to submit or notify ALJs of all evidence five business days before the hearing.
“This is going to be a hard and fast rule that the ALJs and staff have been made aware of and will be adhering to,” Grover said. “It’s going to be a challenging adjustment for those who represent claimants, given the nature of collecting medical evidence from health care providers.”
The seminar, which was sponsored by Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC, was held at the Bar Association offices.