When the Rules Change: Navigating New SSA Guidelines for Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are federal programs designed to provide workers who can no longer perform their duties due to a disabling injury or condition with supplemental income benefits. If you’re currently receiving federal benefits under this program, it’s important you know the potential upcoming changes to your benefits. At Affleck and Gordon, we’re here to assist you as you navigate changes in the status of your benefits. We offer free case consultations and can help you navigate the potential changes to your benefits. 

Like other federal programs, SSDI and SSI rules and stipulations can change. Recent announcements regarding Social Security state additional layers of proof of condition in order for someone to continue receiving federal benefits. 

If your medical condition hasn’t improved and you’re still receiving your SSDI or SSI benefits, the prospect of losing those benefits could adversely affect you and your family. In addition, many recipients are concerned that they will suddenly lose benefits if they’re unable to navigate the complex paperwork and red tape associated with such an abrupt change. 

Here’s what you need to know if the proposed changes are enacted. 

What are the Current Rules for Receiving Social Security Benefits?

Continuing Disability Reviews, known as CDRs, have three current classifications:

  • Medical improvement is not expected.
  • Medical improvement is expected.
  • Medical improvement is possible.

When the Social Security Administration (SSA) approves someone for benefits, they also denote the likelihood of medical improvement. Sometimes, the recipient will get specific information indicating in how many years the SSA plans on reviewing them to see if they are still disabled by SSA standards. In the past, once the CDR was established, the claimant knew when their next review would be.

Currently, the CDRs have a standard review period for “medical improvement not expected” ranging from 18 months to--for those who fall in the category of “medical improvement expected”--seven years. 

What are the Announced Changes?

Currently, the Trump administration has proposed a fourth category named “medical improvement likely.” With the addition of this category, many people could be placed in this category long after they’ve already been approved their disability benefits, requiring a much higher chance of review within a shorter period of time. This category would require a CDR every two years for those placed in the classification of “medical improvement likely.” 

The goal of this administrative change is to reduce benefit payouts to people who have improved sufficiently enough to be able to return to work. In addition, as this change goes into effect, recipients of SSDI and SSI benefits could be moved to this category swiftly, causing the potential loss of benefits if the proper paperwork to prove ongoing disabilities isn’t provided in time, whether or not the recipient has medically improved or not. 

This can hurt someone who is still in the recovery process and still may not be able to work. In essence, you would be required to re-prove your disability every two years to continue receiving disability benefits. While the government does have to go through a series of steps to prove that someone is no longer disabled if that is indeed their contention, the review process can be a long, stressful, and confusing one.

Although this could remove many people from receiving disability benefits with as estimated $2.6 million in savings for the Social Security Administration, it’s estimated to potentially cost the SSA an additional 1.8 million in administrative costs over the next 10 years. 

What Can These Changes Mean to Me? 

The House Ways and Means Committee has currently requested a 45-day delay for this change to take place, so that they have an opportunity to review the possible harm to those who may lose benefits. The extension will give the House until March 16, 2020, to evaluate the proposed changes. 

If these changes are implemented, recipients with chronic disabilities like Downs Syndrome, cerebral palsy, severe mental illness, or terminal cancer could be notified they are “no longer disabled” and requested to provide new documentation regarding their disability. 

How Can Having an Attorney Help me Obtain the Benefits that I Deserve?

As federal laws change, your attorney can stay abreast of the changes and can alert you if the changes affect you directly. In the U.S., over 60 percent of those who apply for federal disability are denied each year. This proposed change could affect 4.4 million recipients, mostly children and recipients between ages 50-65 with poor health and no income. Having an attorney to keep you abreast of changes in the federal law regarding the disabled will ensure that if these changes take effect, you will have a legal partner to assist you as you comply with the new, stringent requirements. An attorney is your advocate and will fight for you to receive the benefits that you deserve. 

Who Are We? 

At Affleck and Gordon, we’re dedicated to assisting disabled and injured people in Georgia in receiving the Social Security benefits they deserve. In the past 45 years, we’ve helped over 25,000 of our clients receive SSI and SSDI benefits. We focus our practice on disability and injury-related cases, whether they’re regarding Social Security, workers’ compensation, or veterans’ administration claims. By specializing in disability, we can better serve our clients with expertise and attention to detail. We want to help you and your family earn the benefits that can improve your quality of life and take care of basic needs every day. We’ve been fighting for the rights of the disabled for more than 45 years, and we can help you too.

If your Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck and Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 45 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 990-3945.

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