During the past year, the Social Security Administration has implemented several changes that will affect current and future recipients of social security disability benefits. Many of those changes are administrative, and some may alter the process of applying for benefits. Still other changes are intended to improve the process of securing employment for persons with documented disabilities. To avoid unexpected interruptions in benefit payments and to learn about new resources available to them, all disability benefits recipients or their advocates are encouraged to read about these changes in detail.
Changes to Job Listings
The Social Security Administration has long kept a database of available employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. Employment agency personnel across the nation have access to this database, but the organizational structure of these job listings was last updated in 1991. The old database had a dictionary type structure that listed over 10,000 jobs by name and basic description. Many of the job titles are outdated and have been phased out due to the development of new technologies. The new system for the jobs database will have a large number of new occupations in the technology sector. The database will also have tools that allow employment agency staff members to more easily match clients with job opportunities based on geographic location and educational background.
Changes to Eligibility Criteria
The criteria for determining a person’s eligibility benefits was last updated decades ago, and some of the factors no longer apply as strongly. A new set of criteria takes several more detailed factors into account, such as severity and length of each diagnosed disability. This new system also considers the fact that many individuals are able to continue working as they pass the official retirement age of 65.
Changes to Disclosure Restrictions
Another important change concerns the disclosure of medical records belonging to persons with disabilities. Due to privacy concerns and the possibility of identity theft, personnel working on the behalf of someone with a disability now have stricter guidelines about the handling of medical files on each individual. These guidelines concern the access and transmittal of confidential records under specific circumstances, and the rules mainly apply to physicians, attorneys and social workers.
Changes in Advocacy and Administration
One of the biggest problems plaguing the Social Security Administration in recent decades has been the large backlog of cases, resulting in long wait times for benefits recipients and a lack of needed services in a timely manner. The agency has recently implemented measures to address the issue and improve the workflow efficiency of case workers and judges. A benchmark of at least 500 cleared cases per year has been set for each judge who hears and reviews matters related to social security disability benefits. This number aims to reduce the backlog of cases by as much as 50 percent for some judges, and this measure is also in place to give case workers and judges more time to properly review detailed medical records of all individuals submitting social security disability claims. These major changes to the Social Security Administration’s policies and procedures are designed to facilitate the claim process for both case workers and persons with disabilities. Some measures are also in place to increase the accessibility of needed resources for individuals with disabilities, whether it may be a mobility resource or list of current job openings. Other changes are in place to increase the accountability of attorneys, case workers, judges and physicians as well as reduce the risks of fraud or confidential medical information theft.