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Potential change may affect SSDI benefits appeals process

It can be a time consuming process for Tennesseans to apply for and ultimately receive Social Security Disability benefits. The waits are often long, and the process may require multiple levels of appeals. Significantly, a proposed change by the Social Security Administration may affect the appeals process for those who have initially been denied Social Security benefits.

When an SSDI application has been denied, an applicant may pursue a reconsideration review and then, under the current appeals process, he or she has the option for a hearing before an administration law judge. These judges have a certain degree of independence from the SSA. If an applicant does not receive benefits at this stage, he or she may appeal to an appeals council, and then subsequently to a federal court.

Under the proposed changes, instead of a case being heard before an administrative law judge, an appeal would be heard before an administrative appeals judge. Administrative appeals judges are not as independent from the SSA as administrative law judges, who work for government agencies but are protected under the Administrative Procedure Act from other agency pressures such as performance reviews.

Those in favor of the change believe it will help reduce the tremendous backlog of unresolved applications for SSD benefits. Some applicants must wait more than 17 months for a decision on their application. Those opposed to the change believe it is not in the best interest of applicants due in part to the administrative appeals judges’ lack of independence from the SSA.

If you or a loved one has questions regarding the appeals process or these potential changes, you may wish to consult with an attorney for guidance.

Source:, “Social Security Administration Seeks Shortcut Through Massive Disability Backlog,” Arthur Delaney, May 6, 2016

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