Thursday, January 31, 2008
Pressure on SSA for faster processing.
The Social Security Administration has been under a great deal of pressure lately. The focus appears to be the long
delays in processing of claims. There has been numerous magazine and newspaper articles and even TV segments on national
news programs. I think this will help to put pressure on the Social Security Disability process to speed up claims but
I hope it does cause the SSA to sacrifice fairness for speed. Many of the SSA's program improvements I have spoke
about in previous post should help but others greatly reduce the claimants rights for full and fair review of there claims.
It is a very difficult problem because even if all the SSA's new policies to speed up the process are put in place the
increasing number of claims will make it difficult to show SSA has made any improvement in processing times. I
still feel the best new program that could really make a difference but that no one seems to be talking about is the
initiative to make claimant's file available for viewing by their lawyers and the claimants themselves.
In my mind, this is the single most important change to the process that could actually make the biggest difference.
I will not go over all the virtues of this program again since I have done so in earlier post. I just find
it amazing that the people who are writing about the delays in processing and talking about it on TV never mention this
1:03 am est
Thursday, January 17, 2008
New hope for those in regions with longest wait times for a hearing.
The Social Security Administration opened the National Hearing Center on December 17, 2007. The purpose of this new
office is to hear cases by video hearing for those ODARs with the longest wait times. They will focus on doing cases
from the Atlanta, Cleveland and Detroit ODARs. There are presently seven ALJs assigned to this office. There is
some opposition for this coming from the ALJs union. The fear of the union is that this is the start of a process to
eliminate ODARs all together and move towards an all video hearing system. In my opinion the fears of the union are
outweighed by the need to speed up the hearing process especially in places were the wait times are ridiculously long.
To give you an example the processing time in Atlanta is over 900 days long. These kind of delays are unfair to claimants
who are often time with out a source of income for over 2 and a half years while they wait for a decision from the time they
request a hearing. The opening of this new office will hopefully be able to reduce the wait times in these regions and
can only benefit those who are trying to get there Social Security Disability and SSI benefits. The source of this information
is the NOSSCR Forum.
7:31 pm est
Friday, January 4, 2008
What are your chances of winning a SSDI or SSI claim?
I often get e-mails briefly describing ones case and then asking me what chance they have of winning. One thing to keep
in mind is that every case is unique and this can be a very difficult question to answer without having the ability to
see the entire file and speaking to the claimant. There are certain things that can make cases stronger than others
but I can tell you no one knows for sure if a particular case will win or not even if they have all the information they need
to make an assessment. There are so many variables from age, education, medical conditions, limitations from conditions,
who is deciding the case, work experience and so on. The best thing I can tell you is that you know if you can work
or not and if you can't work you should fight to prove it to SSA using all the tools available to you. Learn the
law of Social Security Disability cases the best you can. Get all your medical records in and get opinions and RFCs
from your treating doctors. Get legal help if you need it. Most importantly no matter what you hear, even if a
lawyer tells you it is not a good case, if you can't work keep fighting. From my years of practice I can tell
you that some cases that appear very good sometimes lose and others that appear weak sometimes win. I can't
tell you how many times I have taken on a case that appears weak in the way of evidence or other factors that I accepted because
I believed the claimant could not work after speaking with them. Often times a case may be turned away by lawyers and
considered weak because of lack of evidence. This is often the result of the claimant not having insurance or other
ways to pay for treatment. Many of these cases can be and are won. Remember, if you know in your heart you
can't work do all you can to improve your case and keep the faith even if you are told it is a weak case. If a lawyer
tells you you don't have a strong case try and keep in mind that most lawyers do want to help people but it
is also a business and each law firm has there own criteria on cases they will take based on their view of their chance of
being successful. Some law firms and non-lawyer representatives have very strict criteria and only take cases that
are a very strong.
8:20 pm est