Information from the hearing office suggests that the hearing office will begin to implement the new rules.  Information from SSA has been disseminated that states:

· A new policy to expedite disability claims where the Veteran has been rated 100% disabled by the VA is now implemented.

· To receive expedited processing, these Veterans will have self-identified and provided verification of their VA rating of 100% to the field office. These cases should be identified and flagged upon receipt into ODAR.

· ODAR offices should follow the critical case procedures in HALLEX Manual I-2-1-40 and I-3-1-51.

This is great news.

 

Social Security employs a little more than 1,400 administrative law judges.

In 2007, the average processing time for a hearing was 512 days. It was reduced to less than a year in 2012 but has since crept back up above 400 days.

There are 937,600 cases pending before administrative law judges, according agency statistics.

Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin said the agency has capped the number of cases a judge can hear in a year at 840. Previously, there was no cap, allowing some judges to decide more than 1,000 cases in a year.

Nationwide, approval rates among judges have declined in recent years. In 2013, judges approved 56 percent of the cases they decided, down from 72 percent in 2005.

Nearly 11 million disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security disability benefits. That’s a 45 percent increase from a decade ago. The average monthly benefit for a disabled worker is $1,146.00.

An additional 8.4 million people get Supplemental Security Income, a separately funded disability program for low-income people.  In Florida, that amount is capped at about $730.00 per month.

 

Last month, Social Security published new instructions that allow the agency to process more claims in which entitlement or eligibility is affected by a same-sex relationship. These instructions come in response to last year’s Supreme Court decision in U.S. vs. Windsor, which found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

This latest policy development lets the agency recognize some non-marital legal relationships as marriages for determining entitlement to benefits. These instructions also allow Social Security to begin processing many claims in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages or non-marital legal relationships.  We have consulted with the Department of Justice and determined that the Social Security Act requires the agency to follow state law in Social Security cases. The new policy also addresses Supplemental Security Income claims based on same-sex relationships.

“As with previous same-sex marriage policies, we worked closely with the Department of Justice,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “We are bound by the law within the Social Security Act, and we have to respect state laws.  We remain committed to treating all Americans fairly, with dignity, and respect.”

If a person believes he or she may be entitled to or eligible for benefits, they are encouraged to apply now.

To learn more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/same-sexcouples.

 

The Social Security Administration is asking that you share your story – the story of how your Social Security Disability benefits impacted your life.  You can send them written remarks or a video clip that they can share on their website.

If you would like to participate, check out the website and samples of what other people have turned in.  For instance, Christine sent in her picture and talked about how she uses her SS benefits to pay her bills.

If you see your story posted, let me know, and I’ll write about you here too!

When Michael Astrue stepped down, Carolyn Colvin stepped up temporarily.  President Obama has nominated her as Astrue’s replacement.  Ms. Colvin seems to be taking her responsibilities serious and has posted this message on the ssa.gov website:

 

Social Security touches the lives of nearly every American, often during times of personal hardship, transition, and uncertainty. Our programs serve as vital financial protection for working men and women, children, the disabled, and the elderly.

We administer the largest disability program in the nation. Unfortunately, there are some common misconceptions about our program. We want to ensure that the American public understands this important program and has a clear picture of the individuals living with severe disabilities assisted by our program.

Therefore, I am pleased to announce the launch of our new national communications campaign, The Faces and Facts of Disability. The campaign’s goal is to increase public awareness of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. The campaign will provide facts about the program and personal stories about those who benefit the most.

Many of you work tirelessly every day to provide service to individuals with disabilities. I thank you for making a difference in their lives. Those served by our disability program are our family members, friends, and neighbors – real people in our communities.

I encourage you to play an active role in The Faces and Facts of Disability campaign. Please learn the facts about our program; watch the stories about our beneficiaries, then, share this important information with others.

Together, we can work to ensure that the SSDI program remains a viable resource for the severely disabled in our country.

Thank you for your support.

Carolyn W. Colvin
Acting Commissioner

 

I know this will make everyone waiting for a disability hearing feel better to know that you can play a role in The Faces and Facts of Disability campaign.  Drop me a line and let me know how your participation works out!

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