April 25, 2014

Has Social Security Instructed its Judges to Deny More Claims?

secret memo to social security judgesOver the past few months, lawyers in the Social Security disability legal community have been talking about a rumor that Social Security administrators in Washington have sent out a memo to judges working in hearing offices throughout the country instructing them to cut back on the number of approvals being issued in disability cases.   Historically, about 60% of cases taken to hearing have been approved – but according to this rumor, Social Security wants the approval rate to be around 30%.

There is no question that the Social Security disability trust fund is running out of money and judges in the local hearing offices are aware of this issue.

I have found no evidence that a memo has been sent, but I do note that all of the judges before whom I appear are requiring more and better evidence.  Specifically, I am looking for the following when I accept a case and from my discussions with colleagues throughout the country, they are doing likewise:

  • on-going treatment records – ideally records documenting several years’ worth of treatment
  • a definitive diagnosis – your doctor needs to be able to identify specifically the medical condition or conditions that impact your work capacity
  • support from your treating doctor in the form of a functional capacity form or narrative report – if your doctor does not want to get involved, or otherwise won’t cooperate, your case will be more difficult to win
  • efforts by my client to try to work – under Social Security’s definitions, an unsuccessful work attempt is one that lasts less than 3 months.  If you try to work but cannot, I think you enhance your credibility by showing that you are fighting against the idea of being disabled, not embracing it
  • older claimants – 45 or older
About

Jonathan Ginsberg represents clients in disability claims filed with the Social Security Administration.

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