Changes in rules make hearings more challenging.

Over the last several years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has made important changes to the rules and regulations for lawyers in Social Security disability cases.  Here are just a few of those:

The first big change was  so-called “five-day rule.” All evidence must be submitted at least five business days before the hearing, or the judge must be informed about the evidence. The rule states that the administrative law judge (ALJ) may refuse to consider any evidence that was submitted after the deadline.

SSA’s consideration of treating doctors’ medical opinions also has changed significantly.  Earlier, deference was given to a treating doctor’s opinion on a patient’s condition and limitations. If the opinion was “consistent with the weight of the medical evidence”, the ALJ had to give it controlling weight. If it was not consistent, then the ALJ was left to decide how much weight a medical opinion in the file was worth.

Under the new rule, treating physician’s opinions no longer control. The new rule uses terms like “supportability” and “consistency,  generally weakening the treating doctors’ opinions on their patients’ limitations and abilities. This allows much greater leeway to an ALJ to dismiss these opinions outright.

These rules make it even more important to have legal representation early in your claim process.