Editorial Questions Proposed Regulations Changing Hearing Rules

For people with disabilities, it is important that SSA improve its process for making disability determinations. We strongly support efforts to reduce unnecessary delays for claimants and to make the process more efficient, so long as the steps proposed do not affect the fairness of the process to determine a claimant’s entitlement to benefits. Any changes to the process must be measured against the extent to which they ensure fairness and protect the rights of people with disabilities.

The most significant proposed change would close the record to new evidence in two ways by:

Restricting the submission of evidence at the ALJ and Review Board (the replacement for the Appeals Council) regardless of its relevance to proving a claimant’s disability; and
Limiting the scope of review and ability to submit new evidence after a federal court or Review Board remands a case because of legal errors. To exacerbate the adverse effect of these changes, claimants would be advised to file new applications, potentially with detrimental consequences, and restricted in their ability to reopen prior claims.
Is there reason to believe that the real purpose of the changes is to reduce allowances? The proposed rule assumes that fewer claims would be allowed, with a more than $1.5 billion reduction in benefit payments over the next ten years. From our perspective as advocates for claimants with disabilities, this is not acceptable.

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