Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Is there any way to get a favorable decision at the hearing level without a hearing?

The short answer is yes. However, the one method I am about to explain is underutilized or not used at all by many lawyers and representatives and sometimes over used. It is called a requests for a fully favorable on the record decision also frequently called OTRs. This method of getting a favorable determination is not a good choice for all claims. When a lawyer decides to ask for a fully favorable on the record decision before a hearing they should only do so when they feel they have an extremely good case with the evidence they have. The lawyer then writes a brief detailing why his client is disabled under the rules and how a fully favorable decision is supported by the evidence in the file. As I said earlier, there are some lawyers and representatives who never do this. On the other end of the spectrum, there are lawyers and representatives who do this on every case or close to it. Briefs for OTR's are most successful when they are used sparingly for only cases they feel are strong enough that they can win by this method. The reason I say this is because if the lawyer is known by the employees at the hearing offices to only send requests for fully favorable on the record decisions when it is appropriate, then the lawyer's brief is more likely to be read quicker and given more credence since the lawyer will have a good track record with that office. Most people at the hearing stage probably feel their case is strong enough for an OTR. However, this decision should be left up to the lawyer who is very familiar with the types of claims that are likely to get a favorable result using this method. The hearing offices like to approve extremely good cases before a hearing because it decreases the average wait time for a hearing at that office because there is one less hearing to schedule. However, the hearing offices do not like to receive requests for OTR's if it is not an extremely good case because it can actually slow down the offices workflow by requiring their attorneys to do extra reading without any benefit to the hearing office. A successful OTR can decrease and individuals wait for decision in some cases from years to months. There is nothing wrong with asking your lawyer or representatives if your case is strong enough at the moment to request an OTR but you should respect your attorneys decision not to do this if he feels your case is not ready and not likely to result in a favorable decision without a hearing. Keep in mind, most cases at the hearing level should not request an OTR. In fact, most cases that win at the hearing level will still have to go through the hearing process. In many cases, your testimony at the Social Security hearing can play a big part in you being found disabled. So if your lawyer decides not to do an OTR in your case, do not look at it as if this means you have a bad case, it just means your case might need more development or your testimony at a hearing is crucial to the case. Lastly, I want to mention that even if a request for an on the record fully favorable decision is denied you will still have an opportunity to have a hearing and a decision will be made after that hearing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Social Security announces it is adding new medical conditions to its Compassionate Allowance Process.

The Social Security Administration made a press release on February 11, 2010 there will be expanding its list of medical conditions eligible for its compassionate allowance process. I have spoken about this process before which is very helpful for those who have very serious medical conditions. This is part of Commissioner Astrue's plan to help reduce the backlog of Social Security disability cases and get quicker decisions for those who are obviously disabled. When you apply if you have one of the medical conditions on this list it will be identified by a computer and referred for special consideration under the compassionate allowance process. If it is found that you have one of the conditions on the list it resolves in a very quick favorable determination. Previously, this list consisted mostly of different types of cancers but now there are many conditions listed that are not cancers. Even if you do not have one of medical conditions on the list it is still good news for you because it takes many other claims quickly out of the process which will hopefully lead to quicker decisions on SSD or SSI claims that goes through the regular Social Security process. Below is a list of the new medical conditions added compassionate allowance program. For more information on compassionate allowances and the other medical conditions it covers you can visit the SSA website at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances . You can also find the rest of the list on my web page on cancer and Social Security Disability.

Below is the added medical conditions to the list.

Alstrom Syndrome, Amegakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia, Ataxia Spinocerebellar, Ataxia Telangiectasia, Batten Disease, Bilateral Retinoblastoma, Cri du Chat Syndrome, Degos Disease, Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, Edwards Syndrome, Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva, Fukuyama Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, Glutaric Acidemia Type II, Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) Familial Type, Hurler Syndrome Type IH, Hunter Syndrome Type II, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa Lethal Type, Late Infantile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses, Leigh’s Disease, Maple Syrup Urine Disease, Merosin Deficient Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, Mixed Dementia, Mucosal Malignant Melanoma, Neonatal Adrenoleukodystrophy, Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses Infantile Type, Niemann-Pick Type C, Patau Syndrome, Primary Progressive Aphasia, Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy, Sanfilippo Syndrome, Subacute Sclerosis Panencephalitis, Tay Sachs Disease, Thanatophoric Dysplasia Type 1, Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, Walker Warburg Syndrome, Wolman Disease, and Zellweger Syndrome.

For more information on the Social Security Disability process and how SSA is trying to improve processing times you can visit my linked page on the subject.