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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G&G Weekly Update

SSA Starts Prehearing Review

In an attempt to reduce hearing times, Social Security’s offices are starting to send some cases back to state agencies for additional reviews. These cases under the “Compassionate and Responsive Services” (“CARES”) initiative, will get an additional review. If the state agency determines that the case can be approved, a fully-favorable decision will be issues. Of the 36,066 cases submitted to this program in 2017, only 8.5% of these cases were approved.

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G&G Weekly Update

A new Commissioner of Social Security was re-nominated for a six-year term in January 2019.

Andrew Saul, who was previously nominated during the 115th Congress that ended in January, was re-nominated for the post during the 116th Congress. The term of the Commissioner runs for six years, starting January 20, 2019. There has not been a confirmed Commissioner of Social Security since Michael J. Astrue’s term expired in 2013.

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Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits Go Up for 2019

Starting December 31, 2018, Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits went up for the more than 62 million Social Security beneficiaries and more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries. The cost-of-living adjustment is known as a “COLA.” The COLA is tied to the Consumer Price Index determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the Department of Labor.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) that governs COLA revealed that prices for certain goods have gone up. Because the ...

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The Waiting Game

Claimants for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and SSI (disability benefits) have typically endured lengthy waits for agency decisions on their applications. Large cuts by the Trump Administration in the 2018 budget of the Social Security Administration (SSA) have exacerbated the problem of major delays for disability benefit applicants.

These budget cuts have forced SSA to try and save money by pushing many of its services online, including both disability benefit and retirement benefit services. This online push has been a challenging task ...

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How Do Social Security’s New Evidence Regulations Affect Me?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) published new medical evidence rules on January 18, 2017. (82 FR 5844). They became effective on March 27, 2017. If your claim was filed before March 27, 2017, your claim will not be affected even if it was remanded from a federal court or SSA’s Appeals Council. These regulations provide some help to claimants, but they can also undermine one of the strongest allies that many of our clients have – their treating providers.

On ...

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Disability Benefits Based On Fibromyalgia

The Social Security Administration recognizes Fibromyalgia as a medically determinable impairment that may entitle those who suffer from it to disability benefits. Fibromyalgia, like some other pain disorders, is characterized by diffuse and widespread pain of the joints, muscles, tendons or soft tissue and is commonly associated with fatigue.  The unique feature of Fibromyalgia is that it is a diagnosis of exclusion, i.e., other potential causes of the symptoms must be eliminated.

In order to establish that Fibromyalgia is a severe ...

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