Key Social Security Disability Changes To Be Aware of In 2014

Social Security disability changes

In 2014, approximately 63 million Americans will receive monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Yet with the new year comes many alterations to Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. According to The Wall Street Journal, there are six major changes to how the SSA authorizes disability benefits, but there are additional shifts that everyone thinking about applying for Social Security disability benefits needs to understand. Here are the most important Social Security disability changes for people thinking about applying for benefits or already receive SSD benefits need to know:

COLA increases
The cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is a significant factor in the amount qualified beneficiaries receive, and the SSA will increase its benefits by 1.5 percent beginning in January 2014 for more than 57 million beneficiaries. More than 8 million people who receive supplemental income saw the increase in December 2013. According to The Herald Bulletin, a local Indiana news source, the average monthly payment for those who receive Social Security disability benefits will now be $1,148, which is up from 2013’s $1,131.

Increased scrutiny of claims
According to the Journal, the SSA will be taking a greater look at how “third party groups,” such as physicians and lawyers, are working within the Social Security disability system. This boost in examination may cause challenges for doctors and attorneys when they try to help their patients or clients receive disability benefits, but in no way should this rise in surveillance discourage people from seeking Social Security disability payments.

Possibility of a proposed rule to prevent the withholding of information
A SSA official said in December that the agency might propose a new rule involving information withholdings by law firms and various agencies regarding disability applications, the Journal reported. While the rule’s specifics haven’t been announced, there is the possibility that – if the rule is introduced and comes into effect – the SSA will require increased disclosure of information in order to receive Social Security Disability benefits. For those who are thinking about seeking Social Security Disability benefits, this could be beneficial because it ensures all relevant information is provided to judges and the SSA.

Lowered caseload caps for judges
It was difficult in the past for judges to properly examine applicants’ medical records and information due to high workloads. According to the Journal, many judges were managing more than 1,000 cases every year, despite the SSA wanting judges to only handle 500 to 700 cases annually. For many judges, this meant they weren’t able to make informed decisions on cases because they were rushing, or if they were taking the needed time, they were creating a large backlog of cases. Receiving Social Security disability benefits can take months or even a few years and sources suggest that some lawyers deal with cases that can stretch two years or longer. Judges were being asked to take on so many cases because the Labor Department reduced the number of judges. The Journal has since reported that the SSA’s case limit is now at 800. As the cap has dropped twice in just the last two years, the limit may decrease even more. Social Security disability beneficiaries may begin to see case times increase in 2014.

Updates to job listings and the grid
The SSA had been using outdated job listings for years to match Social Security disability benefit applicants to local occupations. The Journal reported that rewriting the job dictionary will take many years, and may not be completed at the earliest until 2016, but updating the system will be to everyone’s benefit. In addition, the administration will revise its “grid,” which is the devise that helps judges determine if a person qualifies for Social Security disability benefits.

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