In 2016, for the first time in nearly 30 years, the number of Americans receiving Social Security disability payments declined.
The 8.89 million people receiving SSD in January 2016 marked the first time that the number of people receiving disability decreased year over year since at least 1988, the earliest data available. The trend continued in 2017, as the number of payees fell, slowly but steadily, to 8.79 million in January, which is the lowest number in almost five years.
Fewer claimants are being approved for benefits. In 2002, 44.6 percent of applications were approved. Since 2014, the approval rate has been hovering around 32 percent.
And after March 27, 2017, a treating physician’s opinion won’t mean as much to a claimant’s case either. The Social Security Administration has adopted new rules for agency review of disability claims filed after that date. Notably, the new regulations eliminate the “treating-physician rule,” which requires Social Security adjudicators to give significant weight to the evidence of disability presented by a claimant’s medical treating sources. SSA also will no longer give added weight to disability determinations of other government agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs.
These changes do contradict prior District Court rulings which require SSA to give greater weight to treating sources and to find VA unemployability to be the same as SSA disability. Time will tell if these new changes will be upheld by reviewing Courts at the District level, but until then, it will mean even more denials and a much longer appeal process.
It currently takes a year or longer to get to an SSA hearing and a few years longer to get up to a District Court for Appeal. An estimated 1.4 million people are currently waiting for a disability hearing, and the delay from initial denial can be devastating to those with no income and who are unable to work.
Please visit our website: www.socialsecurityjustice.com or contact one of our Bailey & Galyen offices for additional information.