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Potential new rule could impact SSD hearings and appeals

When Pennsylvania residents are suffering from disabling conditions, Social Security disability benefits can be a great help. The rules for hearings and appeals are an understated key to a case. New rules have been proposed that may impact SSD applicants, administrative law judges and the appeals process.

Comments from the administrative law judges, or ALJs, say the new proposals could violate the law. The new rules were posted for comments by the Social Security Administration. Its proponents say that letting appeals judges take some cases ALJs normally hear would speed reviews over SSD eligibility. The ALJs believe that this will hinder their independence, it is unnecessary, and it could be against the law.

The rule was designed to address a major backlog of cases. The union representing ALJs says that the number of pending cases, around 540,000, was a historic low. The reduction of backlogged cases came about through the ALJs work. They say the rule, designed to reduce the backlog, is not needed. The reduction was accomplished despite fewer full-time judges being on the job. According to them, the intent of the current law is to maintain judicial independence. Appeals judges are under the oversight of the agency, which is not true for ALJs.

If the change is completed, all judges would be under agency control. The new rule might also contrast with what the U.S. Supreme Court decided in an SSD case regarding whether an applicant's appeal had been filed in the necessary time frame. People applying for SSD benefits might not think about these background issues. Their illness, condition or disability is worrisome enough. Still, the application, ALJ hearing and appeals might be critical to a case. Having a lawyer experienced in getting SSD benefits might be useful.

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