Chicago attorney Howard Ankin has voiced his opposition to new regulations that he feels could further complicate a Social Security disability system that is already challenging to navigate. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently announced that they would pursue rule changes that would force disability applicants to submit all information on their disability, regardless of whether it supported their claim.
Officials at the SSA say that some applicants and their attorneys intentionally hold back information on their condition if they feel the information will hurt their chances for approval. Under the proposed changes, disability applicants would be required to submit all information, even medical information that could disprove their claims that they can’t work.
Federal law isn’t clear on the issue, but suggests that all medical information should be disclosed. However, disability rights groups and disability attorneys have said they have an obligation to help their clients win the case and, thus, present the best case possible. In recent years, the SSA has backed off requirements for full disclosure of medical information.
Attorney Howard Ankin believes clients and attorneys should be truthful in their Social Security disability applications. However, he worries that the new requirement could complicate the application process.
A Social Security disability application first goes to a state agency. If that agency denies the claim, the applicant can appeal and eventually request a hearing with a Social Security judge. These judges often have to decide on multiple cases every day and have little time to review all the information. They have the opportunity to ask for additional information, but often do not because they have a growing caseload to work through.
Mr. Ankin recently said, “Disability cases are rarely black and white. As an attorney, I’m able to present the most relevant information so the judge can make a fully informed decision quickly. By adding in all information – whether it’s relevant or not – judges are going to have information overload.” He worries that disability judges may be slowed by the new rules or may make rulings that aren’t based on the most pertinent facts.
In lighter news, the Social Security Administration added 25 new diseases to the list of qualified conditions under the Compassionate Allowance program. This is a move Howard supports and hopes that the program adds more diseases to the list to help more people.