Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Future of Social Security Disability

What does the future of Social Security Disability claims look like? I expect the new changes bringing SSA into the digital world will have a huge impact on SSDI and SSI claims. SSA is already moving towards paperless files but the technological progress I expect over the next couple of years should really improve the disability process. As it is now on my cases that are paperless I can submit evidence by fax or by sending it over a secure Internet connection. I can even communicate with the ODAR office electronically. If all goes well in the near future lawyers will be able to access the SSA file over the Internet. This will be very beneficial because Lawyers will know exactly what is in the file and what they need to still get. One big advantage to the claimant is that it will eliminate having to get medical records that are already in the file thus saving money by not getting duplicate medical records. By having access to the whole file from start to finish a lawyer will be able to evaluate cases and submit briefs at various stages of the process and hopefully get faster favorable decisions. Not only does this benefit the client but also will help to relief the SSA backlog. If the medical community can become digital, getting records will be as simple as a mouse click. SSA is also moving towards having medical and vocational experts available online thus removing the obstacle of having to schedule these experts for hearings which can cause delays. There are some lawyers who fear that SSA is becoming too digital and that this could take the human element out of these cases. I see it as the only solution to the growing back log at SSA. In my opinion these changes and many others will make for a faster and more fair process for the claimant.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Report from NOSSCR conference.

There are some interesting things I learned at the NOSSCR conference. It appears that SSA's plan to raise the ages in the grid rules will not be done. The theory was that with improvements in health care people are living longer and getting better medical treatment and therefore the ages in the Grid Rules needs to be raised to catch up with the times. It appears that they will not be raising the ages because it would have a negative impact on the poor in this country who do not have the advantage of the better medical treatment. It also appears as if SSA will continue to have an Appeals Council in some form. As part of the new process, Social Security is testing in the Boston area, the Appeals council was eliminated leaving no option to appeal an ALJ's decision except for a suit in federal court. I am glad to see it looks like they will keep the Appeals Council so that non-represented claimants can still make appeals without having to navigate a federal law suit.