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Changes in appeals process may impact Los Angeles residents

If there are two things that are consistent in the debate about Social Security in this country they are that one group believes that Social Security should be changed, while the other believes it should stay the same. But what about incremental changes? Will they help or hurt Los Angeles residents who have submitted an application to receive Social Security Disability benefits?

The Social Security Administration has made a change in the appeals process for SSD benefits claims that is, on its surface, supposedly directed at reducing the backlog of cases that need to be reviewed by administrative law judges. The review of cases that have been appealed to the highest level of the appeals process will be heard by administrative law judges who are in quite a bit of a different role than the administrative law judges who may actually hear from and meet an applicant at a hearing. Now, administrative law judges at the appeals council level of the process will review these cases. The problem? These judges may not have the same independence to make certain determinations in a case.

Judicial independence is crucial in any appeals process. And by the time that an applicant's case has made it in front of a judge, that applicant has been denied benefits at least twice. The administrative law judge who makes an appeals determination needs to be able to operate with the requisite amount of independence.

As much as many people want Social Security to stay the same, it is likely that more changes will come over time. Los Angeles residents who are getting ready to begin the application process will likely need to keep up-to-date on any of the latest changes.

Source: Huffington Post, "Social Security Administration Seeks Shortcut Through Massive Disability Backlog," Arthur Delaney, May 6, 2016

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