In a report, The Social Security Administration’s Progress in Reducing the Initial Disability Claims Backlog released on April 28, 2014, the Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) examined the Social Security Administration’s (“SSA”) efforts to reduce its initial disability claims backlog. The OIG found that the SSA has failed to reduce its backlog to projected goals and recommended that the SSA create new goals and try to implement them.
As background, the SSA in November 2010 released a report on its strategy to reduce initial disability claims. They outlined a four part plan: (1) increase staffing at Disability Determination Services (“DDS”), (2) improve efficiency through automation; (3) expand the use of screening tools to streamline claims likely to be allowed, and (4) refine policies and business processes to expedite cases.
Individuals who are 55 and older are treated differently under Social Security’s rules for disability than younger individuals. Essentially it becomes easier to win a disability case for an older individual. This is because Social Security recognizes advanced age as an adverse vocational factor. Social Security defines “advanced age” as someone who is 55 or older. When looking to see if there are other jobs that a person can perform, Social Security recognizes that the older you are, the harder it is to learn new skills.
There is a special medical – vocational profile for a person of 55. If a person is aged 55 and meets other requirements discussed below, he or she will be found disabled. I have not had a client fit this profile until today. I am going to write in some detail about this type of case because as our national age gets older (or at least as I get older), it seems to me there will be more people who may fit this profile and not know it. The rule is found in SSR 82-63
I have often sent my clients to the local Vallejo Social Security field office to obtain a benefit verification letter. It is no longer necessary to go in person to obtain a letter and in fact, by October 2014, it will no longer be possible to obtain it in person. One can access this information and obtain a statement immediately by going online and creating an online account at My Social Security.
It is a shame that the local office will no longer be providing letters to people who come in. It disadvantages those people who are not computer literate. For those people in that situation, Social Security will continue to take requests by telephone.
As a result of this policy, I will now help my clients set up an online account so that they may access their information after they have been awarded benefits.