G&G Weekly Updates

Federal District Court Most Client-Friendly Forum in 2018

Based on data compiled by the Social Security Administration and the Office of Disability Program Management, in Fiscal Year 2018 claimants were most likely to receive a favorable outcome at Federal District Court. At state agencies, only 35% of claimants received favorable decisions at the initial stage, and only 13% of claimants received favorable decisions upon reconsideration. The Appeals Council had a dismal 1% allowance rate and a tiny 10% remand rate in ...

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G&G Weekly Update

National Adjudication Team Begins On-The-Record Decisions

After making zero attorney advisor decisions during Fiscal Year 2018, the National Adjudication Team began its work in November 2018 for Fiscal Year 2019. These Attorney Advisors are empowered to issue fully-favorable decisions on the record in cases where a hearing is not necessary. Through February 2019, the most recent month available at this writing, 454 decisions had been issued nationwide with an average of 4.73 dispositions per day. While this sounds like a large ...

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G&G Weekly Update

Social Security Administration Seeks to Change Rules on Ability to Communicate in English

The Acting Commissioner of Social Security proposed rules that would ignore a claimant’s inability to communicate in English when addressing education. These proposed rules would assume that, even if someone is entirely unable to read, write, or speak English, they are just as capable of performing work as a native English-speaker with the same level of education. This rule has been strongly opposed by Social Security claimants representatives ...

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G&G Weekly Update

Social Security Congressional and Public Affairs Staff Shrinks 

At the end of 2018, the Appeals Council’s Congressional and Public Affairs Branch lost another ombudsman to retirement. This leaves a single ombudsman in this office. A Social Security claims representative group has already complained about the lack of responsiveness from this office. It is expected that this further reduction in staff will reduce the effectiveness of that office to responding to concerns from the claimants, Congress, and the general public.

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G&G Weekly Update

Social Security Administration to Reconsider Pain

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is seeking additional input on how it considers pain in assessing disability. The SSA sought input from the public on objective measures of pain to evaluate its intensity and persistence. The SSA also sought to determine whether it should treat chronic pain or neuropathic pain (nerve pain) differently from other kinds of pain. It is expected that the SSA will issue new proposed rules on consideration of pain.

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G&G Weekly Update

Social Security Administration Seeks to Force Video Hearings

Proposed rules from November 2018 seek to prevent claimants from objecting to telephone or video teleconference or “remote” hearings. Previously, rules allowed claimants to object to remote hearings and then appear in person before an Administrative Law Judge. Instead, new rules proposed by the Social Security Administration would prevent claimants from objecting. This could mean that the hearing could be heard by a judge not only in a different state, but by a ...

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G&G Weekly Update

On-The-Record Decision Rare in Some Hearing Offices 

An “on-the-record decision” is when a Social Security Administration administrative law judge makes a favorable decision on your case without a hearing. In Fiscal Year 2017, the Social Security Administration made over 8,000 of these decisions. Some offices make many such decisions. Fayetteville, North Carolina made 215 such decisions in 2017. Boston, MA made 98. Other offices, like Providence, RI made only 28, while some other offices had as few as 13 or 14. ...

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G&G Weekly Update

Social Security Administration Struggles to Modernize Attorney Access to Cases

An associate Social Security Administration commissioner reported to a claimant’s representative group recently that the agency is seeking to expand electronic access to claimant files. Right now, attorneys can only access claimant files electronically after a request for hearing has been filed. Claimants at the initial and reconsideration stages often do not know what evidence the Social Security Administration has and attorneys cannot see why a claim was denied. A preliminary ...

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G&G Weekly Update

Changes Made in Appointment of Administrative Law Judges

After a Supreme Court ruling in July 2018, an Executive Order was issued exempting Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) from the “competitive service.” On the basis of this executive order, the Social Security Administration is now able to hire based on any criteria rather than the merit-bases system formerly in place. All existing ALJs were re-appointed under this rule to comply with the Supreme Court ruling. It remains to be seen how this will ...

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G&G Weekly Update

Social Security Process Getting Longer in 10 States

In ten states, Social Security eliminated the
“reconsideration” step many years ago. This made it faster for a claimant to
get a Social Security hearing. Starting January 1, 2019, this step was restored
in New Hampshire, New York, Louisiana, Colorado and California (Los Angeles
West & North). The other five states, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Michigan,
Missouri, and Alaska, will have reconsideration reinstated by March 2020. This
means that the “prototype” program, ...

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