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Disability applicant rules would stiffen under new SSA proposal

"In the interest of full disclosure" is a phrase that gets used sometimes by news outlets. It often gets employed when someone is worried that a story or an observation being made about someone with whom they have a known connection might be questioned by a suspicion of a conflict of interest.

Well, the Social Security Administration has just proposed some new rules that call for just such full disclosure regarding applicants for Social Security disability insurance. They would require those appealing for coverage to inform the government of any and all information relevant to their claim, whether it is detrimental to winning the claim or not.

In publishing the proposed rule recently in the Federal Register, the SSA said it knows that it has made decisions without the benefit of complete information. It said its proposed changes also seek to address allegations that some appeals filed on behalf of applicants by legal representatives deliberately leave pertinent information out of the record.

Applying for SSDI is complicated in the best of situations. The first order of business is to seek approval from a state agency. If the claim is denied (which it often is), an appeal is possible before an SSA administrative law judge. That creates a whole new set of complications, which is why an attorneys help is strongly recommended.

Experts suggest the proposed rule change is an effort on the government's part to put its two cents worth into an ongoing debate about the issue in the legal community. That discussion has pitted proponents of full disclosure, which they say federal law already calls for, against those who say lawyers' ethical obligations are to serve the best interests of their clients first.

What the new rule seems to say is that the government is coming down on the side of full disclosure. Formal adoption of any rule change likely won't come for several months. In the meantime, the SSA is inviting comments from the public about the proposal.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Social Security Proposes to Tighten Rules on Disability Appeals," Damian Paletta, March 6, 2014

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