Senator Introduces Bills to Reform Social Security Disability Insurance Program

Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) July 23, 2015 - Measures would update Social Security Administration’s (SSA) “grid rules” for calculating applicant eligibility.

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Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced a trio of bills on May 6 that would change the SSA’s “grid rules,” which are the standards the agency employs to determine an applicant’s eligibility for benefits from the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. Hatch’s measures would also simplify the benefit process and establish standards for medical evaluation that would be similar to those that Medicare uses.

Hatch, who is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said that the SSDI program had long “failed to keep up with rapid changes in medicine, technology and education.” He touted his bills as “the first step in modernizing the SSDI program to make it more effective and efficient for both beneficiaries and taxpayers.”

The grid rules, which first came into use in 1979, consist of a series of factors pertaining to an applicant, including age, education level, level of skills, existence of transferable skills and ability to perform work on regular and sustained basis. The SSA uses these factors to determine whether an applicant for disability benefits can make a “vocational adjustment” to another job or is disabled and entitled to collect the benefits.

“The grid rules are a complex set of standards that disability insurance applicants must meet in order to win approval for their claim, but the standards are less demanding the older the applicant is,” said David W. Magann, a prominent attorney in Tampa, Florida whose law firm specializes in Social Security disability law. “Still, the grid rules present obstacles that many an applicant is unable to overcome.”

The Guiding Responsible and Improved Disability Decisions Act is Hatch’s bill that would update the grid rules. Hatch’s two other pieces of legislation are the Promoting Opportunity Through Informed Choice Act, which would mandate the creation of online tools to assist disability recipients to find work, and the Disability Evidence Integrity Act, which would discourage the SSA from determining eligibility based on evidence that felons or those disqualified from federal healthcare programs have provided.

“Regardless of whether the reform legislation becomes law, it is safe to say that there will still be many deserving disability applicants who may have missed qualifying impairments, such as mental health or dexterity issues, or whose claims the SSA will deny for some other contestable reason,” Magann said. “An experienced disability attorney will be able to help these applicants win approval for benefits in any appeals process.”

David W. Magann, P.A.
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