“SSA’s regulations governing the Hearing process are the same from coast-to-coast. Certainly, they are the same in Hearing Room A as they are in Hearing Room B of each individual hearing office. Yet, a casual reading of Judge’s approval ratings (best internet site is disabilityjudges.com) reveals the approval ratings of Judges vary, sometimes quite dramatically. The current national approval rate has held steady for almost 4 years at around 44% (people represented by Keller & Keller win at a much higher rate), yet some judges “pay” 60% of their claims and others 20%.”
Today, Attorney Burns says that the above remains true, but some things have changed in the intervening few years and the one that is most concerning to him is that SSA is becoming more interested in denying claims. As in all matters of public policy, the Agency would heatedly deny such a charge, but the difference to the person practicing within the system is apparent.
Recent Rulings Make it Easier for Disability Claims to Be Denied
Since 2017, multiple Social Security Rulings (“SSR’s”), which are rule changes with the force of law, have been aimed at controlling Claimant representatives. Attorney Burns says that in the eight years he practiced prior to that time, the SSR’s told SSA employees how they should evaluate impairments or clarified existing rules. Now, SSR’s are directed to constrain representatives. Changes to eligibility requirements since 2017 (and culminating in these silly changes to the Musculoskeletal requirements) are geared toward denying more cases. Even changes which seem to benefit clients, like the recent clarification on Migraine Disorders, contain gems like the headache has to be witnessed by a doctor and the doctor has to describe it in their notes! What doctor provides a detailed description of an invisible occurrence in their notes? It’s a loophole for SSA judges to deny Headache claims.
The SSA's Guidelines Assume You Aren't Being Truthful
SSA’s “heel turn” is not due to changing presidents or even Congress, but in the reluctance of SSA to accept that people with long medical histories and treatment are often disabled. The Agency creates rules and regulations which assume that the client and their representatives are liars. In a recent Court case of Keller & Keller’s, the Federal Magistrate admonished SSA’s people for their refusal to accept the testimony of clients and observations of their doctors. SSA decision makers, in other words, are so skeptical of clients that even the Courts have to remind them that people sometimes tell the truth!
With the above stated, Attorney Burns’ general conclusion is this: If you think you are disabled, then don’t you dare go to a hearing without an attorney. Keller & Keller attorneys will present your best case. We will prepare your case for appeal, if necessary. Do not approach this increasingly hostile Agency on your own. Call or contact our Social Security attorneys immediately for a free Social disability evaluation.