Monday, March 27, 2017

New Social Security Ruling on Medical Equivalence (SSR 17-2p)

Effective today, the Social Security Administration will implement a new ruling regarding the evidence needed by judges to make a finding of "medical equivalence".  For a copy of SSR 17-2p (click here.)   
Under Social Security regulations, a person may be found disabled if he or she "meets" or "equals" the requirements of a listing of impairments (listings).  If an individual meets all the criteria of the listing, then the person is found to be disabled.  However, a person can also be found disabled when the person does not meet all of the requirements of the listing but has a medical condition that is of "equal" duration and severity.
Through SSR 17-2p, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has elaborated on what type of evidence a Judge must obtain in order to make a finding that a listing has been equaled.  It is clear that with this new ruling, the SSA has made it harder for judges to make this finding.  Here is a list of the evidenciary requirements; 

To make a finding that a listing has been equaled the administrative record must contain:
1. A prior administrative medical finding from an MC [Medical Consultant] or PC [Psychological Consultant] from the initial or reconsideration adjudication levels supporting the medical equivalence finding, or
2. ME [Medical Expert] evidence, which may include testimony or written responses to interrogatories, obtained at the hearings level supporting the medical equivalence finding, or
3. A report from the AC’s medical support staff supporting the medical equivalence finding.
This new ruling seriously erodes the judicial independence of administrative law judges.  In essence, the agency has stripped judges of their ability to make independent decisions regarding medical equivalency and instead, has given these powers to doctors and personnel from the Appeals Council. This ruling is also detrimental to claimants in that it allows judges to find that a person does not equal a listing  without having to provide any explanations on the decision.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trump's Budget Director Wants to Cut SSDI

Last Sunday, Donald Trump's Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stated his desire to cut Social Security Disability.  Appearing at the CBS program "Face the Nation", Mulvaney launched a baseless attack on SSD. His statement is plagued with falsehoods.  Here is what he said:
Do you really think that Social Security disability insurance is part of what people think of when they think of Social Security? I don’t think so. It’s the fastest-growing program. It grew tremendously under President Obama. It’s a very wasteful program, and we want to try and fix that.” 
I will address his baseless allegations one by one.

First, a Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, signed Social Security Disability into law in 1956. SSD is certainly part of what people consider to be Social Security, including Republicans. In fact, the states with most persons on SSD are all overwhelmingly Republican.  These states are: Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Arkansas. If Mulvaney messes up with SSD, he is messing up with the white-republican-rural voters who supported Trump. He should think twice before he opens up his mouth again to trash SSD.

Second, his claim that SSD is "the fastest growing program" is completely false.  Here is a graph from the Social Administration that shows that SSD enrollment has been dropping since 2014:
Finally, he claims that Social Security Disability is wasteful.  Disabled workers receive an average of $1,165 a month in benefits.  That is just $13,984 a year!  Disability benefits are extremely hard to obtain.  You can visit a recent article: "'This is not the American Dream' Says Woman Turned Destitute Waiting for Disability"  to learn how difficult and dehumanizing it has become for disabled Americans to win SSD.  Moreover, in 2012 the Social Security Commissioner explained before Congress that a study revealed that the error rate in over payments and under payments is less that 1% of all benefits.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Warning: Social Security Disability Phishing Scheme

Social Security Acting Inspector General, Gale Stallworth Stone, has issued a warning letting disability beneficiaries know that there is an ongoing telephone fraud scheme. Reports across the Nation indicate that persons are receiving telephone calls from individuals posing as Social Security Administration employees or OIG investigators. The fraudulent calls tell beneficiaries that there is an issue or something is wrong with the person's Social Security Account or Social Security number. The caller then directs the person to call a non-SSA phone number to correct the supposed problem.

It appears that the calls contain a recording from someone that states to be "Nancy Jones" an "officer with the Inspector General of Social Security". The recording then states that the person's Social Security account and benefits are suspended, and that he or she should call (806) 680-2373 to correct the issue. Persons are warned that the specific recording may vary. The SSA is letting everyone know that the number provided should not be called.

The Office of the Inspector General sometimes calls Social Security Beneficiaries during the course of investigations. However, personal information such as Social Security numbers is never asked on the telephone. If a person receives one of these calls, he or she can call Social Security at (800) 269-0271 or make a complain online at

If a person has any questions about any letter, email or telephone call that claims to come from the SSA, please call 1-800-772-1213 to verify its legitimacy.