Social security disability insurance benefits adjudicators were previously required to give added weight to the opinions of applicants’ treating physicians, but that rule has been eliminated, making it potentially more difficult for people to get approved for disability benefits. The old rule, which was called the treating physician rule, was eliminated when new regulations went into effect on March 27. A disability attorney in Chicago believes that the elimination of the treating physician rule may make it harder for people to get approved for SSDI benefits because the doctors who know them the best and how their conditions affect their abilities to function will no longer be accorded greater weight. Similarly, findings by other agencies, including the Department of Veteran Affairs, will also no longer be accorded added weight.
The New Social Security Disability Rules
Previously, the medical opinions of treating physicians were afforded more weight than medical information from non-treating sources. In some cases, administrative law judges had to give controlling weight to the opinions of treating doctors. Now, no one type of medical evidence receives more consideration. Instead, administrative law judges are supposed to look at all of the medical evidence regardless of its source and determine how persuasive it is a part of the whole. This could mean that an administrative law judge may choose to accept the findings of a paid social security medical examiner who has no history with the claimant over the findings of the patient’s own doctor.
Another area of concern is that Master’s-level licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) were not included in the Social Security Administration’s expansion of recognized treating professionals. Many people who have mental health disabilities receive therapeutic treatment from LCSWs, and their exclusion from the approved and recognized acceptable medical source list may be problematic for people who have disabling mental health disorders.
Potential Impacts of New Disability Rules
The Social Security Administration states that its new regulations are simply meant to better reflect the delivery of modern healthcare. However, a disability attorney in Chicago is concerned that the rules might reflect a trend towards denying a greater percentage of claims.
In the current climate, people who are disabled and apply for SSDI benefits may find it more difficult to get approved. The current push is to minimize the amounts of benefits that the government pays. A disability lawyer in Chicago might help clients with building strong disability cases.