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Austin Social Security Disability Law Blog

Social Security continues expansion of SSD fast-tracking

The dictionary says compassion is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” When a person looks at that definition, it is easy to see where the Social Security Administration came up with the name for its Compassionate Allowances program.

The Austin Chronicle reports that program helps people with certain conditions to get expedited decisions when applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Earlier this year, the administration added 25 conditions to the Compassionate Allowances list, which when coupled with the 35 added in late 2012, brings the total to 225 disabilities making applicants eligible for fast-tracking.  

Reductions in staffing hurting SSDI applicants

Critics compare the reductions in Social Security Administration staff to a death by a thousand cuts. The average person in Austin is probably unaware of the slices that carve away bit by bit at the agency’s ability to serve not only retired Americans, but those who are disabled by illness or injury and can no longer work.

The Social Security Administration’s repeated efforts to cut the backlog of SSDI applications has been thwarted time and again by congressional budget cutters who keep reducing the number of agency workers, a recent article states.

How inconsistencies in the SSD process affect Texas beneficiaries

When applying for Social Security Disability, many details that can affect the outcome of your case. Some of these details may be beyond your control, like which administrative law judge happens to review your case.

Nationally, judges approve initial applications for Social Security Disability benefits about 50 percent of the time on average. But a review conducted by a local news station in Austin found that administrative law judges in Texas have widely varying approval rates. Some approve initial SSD benefits applications as much as 64 percent of the time while others approve just nine percent of initial applications.

SSA contemplates toughening up SSD application process

It is a relatively well-known fact that most initial applications for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are denied and must be appealed. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has numerous reasons for operating the application process this way, though it tends to be a frustrating approach in the eyes of those who need and deserve to have their applications approved from the start.

In a move that will likely serve to make the process more frustrating for those seeking to either apply for benefits or to appeal denied disability claims, the SSA is proposing a rule that would tighten up the application process in one particularly significant way. Specifically, the SSA would be placing a burden on applicants to provide the agency with any and all medical information that may be potentially relevant to a claim, whether or not this information may harm an individual’s chance of receiving SSD benefits.

Timing issues and Social Security disability applications

Given the difficulty in submitting a successful claim for Social Security disability insurance benefits -- only around 40 percent of all SSDI claims are successful -- readers may question whether strategy considerations, such as the timing of an application, might affect an applicant’s chances.

A disability benefits attorney would likely agree that a successful SSDI application requires that some thought be given to strategy. For example, small bits of medical records may appear more cohesive and persuasive to a Social Security Administration official if they are presented in narrative format. 

Veterans and Social Security disability benefits

Readers likely know that the Veterans Administration also offers disability benefits to veterans. However, there could be additional forms of assistance available to a disabled veteran. Depending on his or her work history, a disabled veteran might also qualify for Social Security disability insurance payments.

Significantly, the requirements for disability eligibility are different in each agency. Whereas the Veterans Administration recognizes partial disability, a disabled worker seeking SSDI benefits must generally be unable to perform any comparable work in his or her industry.   

Disability determinations on the basis of functional impairment

In recent posts, we’ve discussed some of the criticisms recently made against the Social Security Administration. One of the most disturbing inquiries implies that certain types of disability may be more deserving of Social Security disability insurance payments than others. In that regard, the Social Security Administration is very clear: disability is determined by the level of functional impairment, no matter the type of injury or illness.

Unfortunately, critics of the SSDI program can’t seem to understand the functional approach used by SSA disability examiners. For them, data like that contained in the Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program is easily misconstrued.

Prostate cancer now on SSDI compassionate allowances list

Did you know that the most common cancer in men is skin cancer? Did you know that the second most common form of cancer is prostate cancer? That's all according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 233,000 cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed this year and 29,480 men will die of from it this year.

In Texas, estimates from the state health department suggest some 1,800 men die of the cancer each year.

Considering those statistics, it is perhaps little wonder that the Social Security Administration has included prostate cancer on its latest update of conditions covered under its compassionate allowance initiative. 

Some track & field events now open to disabled Texas students

Up until now, disabled athletes in Texas high schools were not allowed to participate in track meets. But a new pilot program will change that, at least partially. This season, teens with disabilities will be able to compete in two races, along with the shot put.

The Texas University Interscholastic League is overseeing the pilot. Disabled and non-disabled high school students will get to participate against each other in the 100 meter and 400 meter races, and shot put. More programs may be added to the list, if the pilot is successful.

Out-of-pocket medical costs strain finances of disabled workers

The Social Security disability insurance program has been the target of several unflattering portrayals. Collectively, that media coverage might suggest that SSDI benefits are easily obtained by fraud.

However, a recent statistic casts doubt on that assumption. According to recent data, out-of-pocket expenses claim over one-third of the average senior’s Social Security check. In monetary terms, the average senior’s out-of-pocket medical costs in 2012 were $5,261.

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