Advocates criticize proposed SSA administrative rules

Social Security benefits application form, glasses, a pen and a calculator
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Sixteen disability rights groups, including the National Disability Rights Network, submitted comments to the Social Security Administration on August 26, pushing back against proposed changes to the procedural rules for Social Security disability benefits.

Under the proposed regulations, released July 12, claimants would be required to submit the written evidence they plan to use in their hearings five days before their appearance date.

“We oppose the creation of deadlines that exclude material, and possibly dispositive, evidence,” the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities wrote in the letter. “This is because reaching the right decision at the (administrative law judge) hearing level is most likely when all material evidence is considered at the time the decision is made.”

The CCD argues that the rule is arbitrary and would particularly disadvantage claimants representing themselves pro se, especially those with intellectual disabilities. The advocacy groups also argued that the rule is administratively inefficient, will further increase the wait list for appeals, and make it more difficult for claimants to counter allegations against them.

“ALJ hearings are by their nature fact-finding hearings. Claimants and other witnesses, including vocational and medical experts, are routinely asked to provide oral testimony,” the letter states. “The expert testimony is not available to claimants or representatives prior to the hearing.

“Due process demands that applicants and their representatives are provided an opportunity to respond to such evidence, usually through the submission of a written post-hearing memorandum, but also, and sometimes more importantly, with evidence to refute assertions made at the hearing.”

Similarly, the CCD also opposed new requirements that claimants provide a list of possible objections, a new pre-hearing deadline for subpoenas, and a narrowing of the types of cases eligible for review by the SSA Appeals Council.

The CCD supported the SSA’s proposal to increase the time for which notice would be given to claimants prior to their hearings to 60 days, although it urged a further increase to 75 days.

The full comments can be read here [PDF].

Disability Rights Washington is the designated protection and advocacy agency in Washington and is a member of the National Disability Rights Network.