There's been a lot of buzz in the media lately about purported fraud occurring in the Social Security Disability arena. A particularly crazy set of facts allegedly occurred several years ago in West Virginia, and it has caught the attention of Congress.
Thanks to this craziness, this past October my husband and I spent several hours of precious vacation time glued to the hotel sofa watching Congressional hearings on C Span. Fraud is bad, folks, especially when it concerns tax payers' money.
But here's another important FACT that came out during recent House Oversight Hearings (testified to by SSA Deputy Commissioner Glen Sklar):
The current ALJ allowance rate is at a FORTY YEAR LOW.
A FORTY YEAR LOW!!! This means that more claims are being DENIED by Social Security judges than we have seen in the last FOUR DECADES.
Why? Well that's hard to say. We have theories, but none of them are supportable by studies or statistics. So I'll keep them to myself.
The more important question is: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME?
This means that a higher number of strong disability claims are being denied at the hearing level and will need to be appealed.
This means that you should choose an attorney who is experienced in Appeals Council and District Court appeals and who won't just toss your case if the ALJ denies it.
This means that you should choose a local licensed ATTORNEY who is experienced in appellate work - non-attorney advocates are NOT permitted to file federal court law suits, and neither are attorneys who are only licensed in other states.
This means that building a complete medical record, creating a thorough hearing record, and cross-examining medical and vocational experts are MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER.
We hope that just like any other trend, this 40 year low will be temporary. But in the meanwhile, we are fighting hard to create the strongest claims possible for our clients, and are taking more appeals to the Appeals Council and District Court than ever!
And remember: if you were previously represented by different counsel who has declined to appeal an ALJ denial, please don't hesitate to have your case reviewed by another attorney for a second opinion, and QUICKLY. A 30 or 60 day appeals deadline still applies!