Anyone in the Cincinnati area who has applied for Social Security disability benefits recently knows that, if a claim gets denied, they are going to be in for a long wait should they want to appeal that decision to an administrative law judge.
Since the Great Recession of 2008, the number of people wanting disability benefits has gone up significantly, and this has put a burden on the system of administrative appeals that is in place. After a denial of a claim for disability, people may wait months or even years to get the chance to tell their side of the story more fully and, hopefully, get benefits.
A new rule that the Social Security Administration passed may make it more likely for Ohioans who are sick or injured and cannot work to get their applications for benefits accepted at the outset. This proposal is rather simple on the surface, as it eliminates a requirement that the Administration give preferential weight to the medical opinion of an applicant’s treating physician, meaning, for example, that the applicant’s long-time doctor is on the same footing as anyone else who is qualified to talk about the nature of an applicant’s medical problems.
Already, only 45 percent of disability claims are accepted at the outset of the case and without appeal to an administrative law judge. Critics of the new proposal say that it gives the Administration leeway to deny even more claims, since, after all, even a medical expert who has simply reviewed the applicant’s records can opine successfully that the applicant could go back to work and thus, in the Administration’s eyes, is not disabled.
While supporters of the new rule say it is designed to prevent collusion between a patient and a family doctor who might have an incentive to exaggerate his or her patient’s condition so they can get benefits, the end result of this rule may well be longer waits for Ohioans who sincerely cannot go back to work because of a disabling condition.