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Social Security proposes new role for SSDI representatives

In response to problems with failure to disclose information, the Social Security Administration is reportedly proposing to increase requirements for Social Security disability applicants. Specifically, SSDI applicants would be required to submit all relevant medical information to the agency, even information that hurts their chances of approval. The duty would fall not on those who represent SSDI applicants, but squarely on the applicant himself or herself.

The proposal would resolve two competing lines of thought on the duty of those who represents SSDI applicants. Although federal law arguably already requires representatives to submit all information relevant to the application, the agency has also acknowledged that lawyers feel it is their duty to help their client win their case. 

The motivation behind the proposal is likely at least partly to due to the need to expedite the decision-making process. Social Security judges aren’t always able to make accurate decisions without obtaining more medical information. With so many applications to handle, requesting additional medical information is a good way to increase the backlog. Requiring applicants to include all relevant information would help address this problem.

If the proposal is passed, the role of representatives for SSDI applicants will obviously change significantly. Representatives would no longer be strictly zealous advocates for their clients. One wonders how this would affect some applicants’ ability to find a representative.

At this point the proposal remains only a proposal, and further changes could be made to it. Whether changes are forthcoming, or whether anything at all will be changed, remains to be seen.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Social Security Proposes to Tighten Rules on Disability Appeals,” Damian Paletta, March 6, 2014. 

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