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Orange County Social Security Disability Law Blog

Judges face heat from Congress to stop approving SSD applications

A letter put together by members of the House is calling for the removal of certain administrative law judges who review applications for social security disability benefits. Some members of Congress claim a group of judges is too lenient in their approval process. The letter accuses these judges of "rubber stamping" applications for approval that enter the social security appeals process, instead of completing a proper review.

The letter, written by a group of members of Congress and sent to the acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA), also made allegations of mismanagement and abuse in both the initial social security disability determination process and the appeals process. Additional concerns included the use of "arbitrary production goals" in an attempt to "clear the backlog of cases instead of protecting American taxpayers," according to a recent report by The Washington Times.

Video games being developed to help depression, anxiety sufferers

Struggling with depression or anxiety is a daily reality for a great many Americans. There are around 40 million sufferers of anxiety disorders and around 15 million individuals with major depressive disorder here in the United States, according to estimates from the National Institutes of Health.

Medications and therapy are among some of the traditional treatments for such mental disorders. However, medical researchers have also been looking at some more unusual potential sources of help as possible supplements to traditional treatments.

The exhaustion of SSDI trust fund nears

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are funded in part by a trust fund and in part by the payroll tax withholding. As the numbers of the program's beneficiaries have grown, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has been unable to replenish the trust fund. Because of this growth, the trust fund is expected to be exhausted in 2016.

This will force the SSA to make a 20 percent cut in benefit payments. Given the average SSDI payment is about $1,100, and a large number of beneficiaries count SSDI as a major portion of their monthly income, it is little surprise that a 20 percent reduction will cause much difficulty for those beneficiaries.

Social Security-more need, less help

Whether you have a question about some general element of your Social Security retirement or have developed a disability that makes working impossible and you need to submit an application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, there are times when trying to call the Social Security Administration (SSA), or navigating their website simply cannot substitute for a face-to-face meeting with a real person.

Yet, with sad irony, as the numbers of Americans receiving retirement income from the SSA, and as those needing SSDI remains high, the SSA has been steadily cutting back on the availability of customer service for those Americans. 

Prolonged delays still plague SSDI hearings

People like to have their biases confirmed. Critics of the Social Security Administration (SSA) often highlight cases of fraud involving Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) claimants as the excuse for why the program grown so large. They seem to imply that if we only were more restrictive and examined claims more carefully, we could "save" the program by eliminating all of the fraud.

Well, we see many clients who need help filing their application for SSDI, or who need assistance with a hearing or appeal, after their initial SSDI claim has been denied. And these clients more resemble the people described in a news story discussing one of the other aspects of SSDI that is well documented. That being the backlog in hearings for SSDI benefits.

Red tape is unavoidable with VA and SSDI claims

Large disability benefit systems, like that of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or the military disability program administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, are necessarily complex. They deal with tens of thousands if not millions of applications for disability benefits every year, and must process the complex claims that are presented.

Applications for VA or Social Security disability tend to require a lot of information and for many applicants, the assistance of a legal professional, like an attorney. This is because of the vast number of claims, the VA and the Social Security Administration demands that the information regarding your claim is well organized and accurately demonstrates your medical condition or injury that justifies your receiving disability benefits.

Congress should work to ensure SSDI funding

The programs from the Social Security Administration, the retirement program, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) grew out of a genuine need of millions of Americans. These programs were created to provide a safety net that prevents the elderly and the disabled from being thrown out into the street because they lacked income.

Times have changed since the origin of the programs, and SSDI has grown over the years as more women entered the workforce and as Congress broadened eligibility to the program. Of course, the program is funded by the FICA tax, and as the program has grown, Congress has been reluctant to increase the tax.

There's a high price that comes with ignoring mental illness

No one needs our assistance more than the mentally ill. While many remain complacent in the belief that mental illness does not affect them, the cost of not treating our mentally ill is extremely high.

We are going to have to cope with states that have cut funding for the treatment of the mentally ill. State budgets were cut by $5 billion during the period of 2009 to 2012 regarding mental health services. 

Severe conditions may qualify for SSDI's Compassionate Allowance

The Compassionate Allowance program from the Social Security Administration (SSA) allows those afflicted with one of the 225 identified conditions to have their applications for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefit receive a quicker processing. The compassionate allowances program enables those with the most severe medical impairments to avoid the long waits that many applicants endure.

This is out of recognition at both the severity of their conditions and a recognition of the general slow processing of ordinary applications. The SSA has been dealing with a backlog of claims for SSDI benefits for the better part of the last two decades, and because of increase in eligibility and demographic changes and the unsteady funding of the SSA by Congress, it has rarely gone away.

The ABLE Act, if passed, would assist the disabled

Disabilities make life more difficult and complex. Some may suffer from a minor disability, like that resulting from an injury to a foot or hand, that even after it is fully healed, may have a restricted range of motion or you may not be able to stand on your feet for long periods of time.

Some of these disabilities may not be severe enough to limit your employment and make you eligible for disability benefits from a program like Social Security disability insurance (SSDI).

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