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Will disability approvals be even tougher in 2014?

The process of applying for Social Security disability insurance benefits can be complicated. As readers of this SSDI blog know, much more is required than just proof of a medical diagnosis. Evidence about a patient’s response to treatments, medications, physical therapy and overall cognitive and physiological functioning is needed to present a three-dimensional profile to agency officials.

That process hardly sounds easy, right? Yet based on a recent article, the SSA’s pressure on disability judges to approve only the most deserving SSDI applications might be getting even tougher. 

Starting this year, the SSA will take a more active approach to supervising the administrative law judges assigned to SSDI appeals. Notably, such judges were already subject to being overturned. For example, an applicant could exhaust his or her administrative options and filed a successful appeal in a federal district court. However, the agency oversight may mean that disability judges may be subject to pressure at the administrative stage.

Although the exact supervisory process hasn’t been disclosed, some disability attorneys fear that SSA officials will target disability judges whose approval rates are too high. Only about two-fifths of all applicants qualify under the existing approach, so it’s hard to imagine how SSA officials might drive that number even low.

One thing is certain: An applicant will need to produce compelling evidence of his or her functional limitations to support any disability diagnosis. An attorney who has handled such claims and appeared before disability judges might have tips for presenting that documentation in the most strategic way possible.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “Government Pulls in Reins On Disability Judges,” Damian Paletta, Dec. 26, 2013 

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