More changes coming for the Social Security disability program

In our last post, we discussed an administrative change announced by the Social Security disability insurance program. That post focused on the new oversight of disability judges hearing SSDI appeals. In this post, we explore several additional changes that have a more direct impact on individual SSDI applicants.

Perhaps the most significant change is a revision of how Social Security Administration officials examine the context of an applicant’s disability. Under the current model, disability judges assigned to SSDI appeals have a set of guidelines that include factors such as age, gender, education level, and type of disability.

Those factors, known as the grid, pose the danger of substituting case-by-case analysis for a formulaic outcome. Worse yet, they haven’t been updated in years. Critics of the SSDI program claim that the grid may encourage fraudulent applicants to game the system. Fortunately, SSA officials have undertaken the task of updating the so-called grid, although the task is expected to take at least a couple of years.

Another change is an update to the Social Security Agency’s evaluation of job functioning and placement. The agency relies on vocational experts to determine whether a disability applicant might be capable and qualified for jobs near his or her location. In addition to other assessments, those experts can rely on the SSA’s listing of job descriptions.

Although the current manual contains over 10,000 different job titles, it was last updated in 1991. That means that it’s probably missing all of the new technology and/or Internet jobs that have been created in the last 20 years.

Source: Washington Wire, “Six Changes Social Security Is Making to Its Disability Program,” Damian Paletta, Dec. 26, 2013