Last February, the Social Security Administration proposed new regulations requiring disability claimants and representatives to disclose all adverse evidence to their disability case. This week, they finalized those regulations, and now require disability applicants or their attorneys to give the Social Security Administration any and all information regarding their disability — even if the information has the potential to hurt their case. The new regulations will go into effect on April 30, 2015.
There are only two exceptions to this rule. The first is any material subject to attorney-client privilege, and the second is the lawyer’s “analysis of the claim,” which is basically any materials a representative prepares in anticipation of a lawsuit.
While the responsibility to submit this evidence falls on the disability applicant, it also says the attorney must “act with reasonable promptness to help obtain the information or evidence that the claimant must submit under our regulations.”
This also applies to opinions from medical providers. Many attorneys will ask treating doctors to write letters or complete questionnaires about their clients’ impairments. If a doctor sends these documents to an attorney, the representative is required to forward them to the Social Security Administration, even if the doctor doesn’t necessarily support the patient’s disability claim. However, if the attorney verbally consults with their client’s medical provider and takes notes, those notes would be protected from disclosure under attorney-client privilege.
Disability applicants and attorneys don’t necessarily have to gather and pay for records; that responsibility is still the Social Security Administrations’, rather, they must let them know that these records exist on their Social Security disability application, and must submit any documents they have already gathered.
How exactly this will affect Social Security disability cases remains to be seen. Will applicants be punished because they failed to tell the Social Security Administration about something they thought was irrelevant to their case? Will attorneys be subject to State Bar sanctions if they follow the Social Security Administration’s directions instead of their clients’? These are just some of the problems these regulations could present claimants and their representatives during the disability approval process.
Why Would You Need to Contact the SSA?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) delivers all kinds of services to the American people. Whether you’re in need of retirement, disability, or survivors’ benefits, the SSA is the place you should go to get them. But what specifically can contacting the SSA do for you?
Below is a list of just some of the reasons you might be interested in talking to the SSA:
- If you’ve applied for benefits, you might want an update on your claim.
- If you’re a beneficiary, you can request a benefit verification letter or ask for a SSA-1099 tax summary of your benefits.
- If you receive Medicare benefits, you can ask for a replacement Medicare card or an SSA-1020 for your taxes.
- Anyone can contact the SSA for the address of a local Social Security office, to apply for a Social Security card, or to ask any questions about the SSA or the benefits they offer.
So how do you actually contact the SSA? There are three preferred methods that the organization encourages: calling, emailing, and visiting a local office.
1. Call them—This is generally the method of contact the SSA encourages most. The organization does not publish the phone numbers of its local offices, but you can reach their Maryland office by calling 1-800-325-0778 between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also reach their automated phone service 24×7 at 1-800-772-1213.
2. Email them—You can email the SSA’s support staff at any time from this page on the website. Be advised that you should never include your Social Security number in any emails you send the SSA. This is to protect your privacy.
3. Walk into a local office—Although the main SSA office is located in Baltimore, Maryland, the organization has local offices in every state across the U.S. If you prefer face-to-face interactions over talking on the phone, visit the SSA’s office locator page. All you need is your zip code to find the nearest SSA office.
For more answers to common questions about the SSA, visit their FAQ page at faq.ssa.gov.
Weekly News Roundup: Social Security Benefits Now Available to Married Gay Couples, New Tableware Made Specifically for People with Dementia, Music Has Positive Influence on Exercise
Here are some of the top healthcare and disability headlines for August 18–24
Gay Couples Are Eligible for Social Security Benefits, U.S. Decides
The Justice Department recently announced that same-sex married couples living in states that did not recognize their unions and who previously filed claims for Social Security benefits will now be able to collect payments. In the past, the Social Security Administration typically looked to the states to determine marital status. The ruling is expected to be enacted going forward, and will be applied to previously filed claims that were pending or in the litigation process. Read More
Inspired By Her Grandmother, This Designer is Making Custom Tableware to Improve the Lives of Dementia Patients
It comes as a surprise to some people that dementia comes with more than just cognitive impairments. Many have accompanying physical challenges as well, which can make simple tasks like eating difficult. After industrial designer Sha Yao’s grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Yao was determined to make life a little easier for those living with dementia and created a tableware set called Eatwell that accommodates dementia patients’ physical limitations while eating.
Here’s How Music Influences Your Workout, According to Science
Do you listen to music while exercising? Well good news! Turning up the beats actually benefits your workout by acting as a natural pain reliever and helping you move faster without even realizing it. Listening to music while exercising releases dopamine and opioids, which helps boost your mood, dulls pain, and makes you feel less tired. Plus the brain’s neurons can synchronize with the tempo of music, which helps when it comes to repetitive motions such as running. Read More
Finding Her Own Way: Ghana Woman with Cerebral Palsy Makes Groundbreaking New Software
Farida Bedwei of Ghana is proof that disability doesn’t mean disadvantage. At the young age of one, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination. But today she’s become not only a beacon of hope in her country, but also a successful software engineer and influential businesswoman in her own right.
Bedwei decided early on in life that she was not going to let her disability define her. Instead she decided to pursue her education, and despite her many physical challenges, she had a sharp mind that craved education. Bedwei was homeschooled until the age of 12 then pursued further education at a government school where she could socialize with other children. Her family noticed her passion for computers, so her successors advised Bedwei to skip her senior year of high school and enroll in a one-year computer course at the St. Michael information technology center. At 15 years old she was one of the youngest students in her class.
From there Bedwei fought for her dream job at a software company called Soft. She went to the head of the technical division and said, “I want a job here. I don’t have experience, but I am inspired to learn . . . If you give me a chance, I promise you won’t regret it.” They liked Bedwei and offered her a spot on their team.
Three years into that job Bedwei was on the move to gain more experience. She ended up at Rancard Solutions as a senior software architect and worked there for nine years. She even managed to get another diploma in e-technology. But what Bedwei really wanted a degree. She decided to go to the University of Hertfordshire in England for one year to study computer science since she believed that’s where the technology market was heading.
And she was right. Today Bedwei is the co-founder and chief technical officer of the software company Logiciel and was named South Africa’s most influential woman in business in 2013. Her biggest accomplishment so far is the development of a cloud software platform for micro-finance. Basically this program helps companies administer loans to their customers by sending a code to their mobile phones. The program has helped give loans to people who need them and also protect them from fraud in the process. Now more than 130 micro-finance companies nationwide are using Bedwei’s program.
Speaking of her experiences, Bedwei says, “I am a role model for a lot of children with disabilities and it’s very important for me to showcase to the world that . . . yes . . .you can have a disabled child and it’s not the end of the world. There is so much that child can end up doing given the right resources.” A beautiful reminder to those who think they are limited, Bedwei is proof that anything is possible.
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