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What does the change in SSD evidentiary rules mean for me?

2016 was the first time there was a year to year decrease in the number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits since 1988, the earliest year from which data is available. The trend has carried on into the New Year, as the number fell from 8.89 million in 2016 to 8.79 million in 2017. This is the lowest level in five years. The annual applications for SSD benefits have also seen a decline, from 2.93 million in 2010 to 2.32 million in 2016.

Since the number of people receiving benefits has decreased and the number of applications received is also falling, this may lead Houston residents to conclude that the number of applications approved will increase over time. However, this is not the case-as the approval rate has declined from 44.6 percent in 2002 to approximately 32 percent in 2014. And with new federal regulations changing requirements this week, the number may fall even lower.

Adjudicators were previously required to give significant weight to disability evidence provided by the claimant's treating sources. Now, they would no longer be required to do that. This means the administrative law judge reviewing claim denials may give equal or more weight not only to health care sources who never treated the claimant, but also those who work for the agency itself.

As many claim that the rules decrease transparency, Houston residents entitled to social security disability benefits due to an inability to work should not be daunted by the changes. An experienced attorney may be able to explain the changes; their impact on the claim and what evidence would add muster to the claim.

Source: Fox 59, "New rules go into effect for Social Security disability claims," Nick McGill, March 27, 2017

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