SSA HAS RECENTLY BEEN VERY BUSY CHANGING ITS RULES AND REGULATIONS

Posted on March 28th, 2017

Do not be evenly minimally misguided to believe SSA is doing these things in guise of national uniformity, etc…  These changes allow them to deny more claims and to make it harder for you to present your case in its best light.

At present the “administrative record” on which your claim is decided is open, meaning additional medical or other evidence can be submitted, until the Appeals Council issues its Notice of Decision or other action.  This is very favorable to the claimants as medical issues change; you have another operation, what might have been thought to be a more minor problem turned out to be more severe, etc.  New evidence could be submitted without having to reapply.  What is the big deal about reapplying.  There are strict rules as to how much retroactive benefits can be paid and it will virtually always be less than on the earlier application.  A new claim usually entails more delay to be processed through the system and SSA might still err in denying the new claim.

Several years ago, Social Security tried an experiment in its Boston region (Region I) that required all evidence to be submitted more than 5 days before the hearing or absent certain exceptions, that evidence would not be made part of the “record”.  SSA gave claimants greater notice of the hearing date, to allow claimants and representatives more time to prepare the case and obtain medical information, but the trade-off was a closed record.  Obviously, not all doctors, hospital, etc. are able to copy records, write opinion letters, fill out disability forms in these arbitrary limits.  Doctors or their staff gets ill.  They are frequently overwhelmed.  They are entitled to vacations.  Not all claimants remember the names and addresses of all of their treatment sources.  There are innocent oversights and omissions.

This experiment was never terribly successful in what it was intended to do, i.e. to force submission of the medical evidence sooner so the ALJ did not have to delay a decision to wait for more evidence.  Now, in the guise of uniformity SSA is applying this rule nationally.

Do not allow your claim to suffer at the discretion of the ALJ who might not be willing to admit later received evidence into the record, perhaps to deny more claims, perhaps for other reasons.

There are ways to protect the record in your claim and to allow submission of later obtained records.  Be very careful that the representative you select knows how to effectively protect your rights with this new rule.