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The Social Security Administration has recently changed its rules about the weight it gives to other agencies who have made awards.  Before September 2016, the Social Security Administration had regulations, 20 CFR 404.1512(b)(1)(v) and 416.912(b)(1)(v), and a Social Security Ruling, 06-03p, which dealt with the weight given to other agency decisions.  These other agencies were primarily the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration and the Office of Personnel Management.  Under these earlier regulations and ruling, the decisions of these other agencies were not binding on the Commissioner of Social Security during the Commissioner’s evaluation of the disability claims process.  The reason that the decisions of other agencies were not binding was that the Commissioner of Social Security thought that the requirements used by the other agencies to give an award, did not mirror the disability requirements of the Social Security Administration.  Even so, SSR 06-03p, indicated that Social Security adjudicators must not ignore and must consider the evidence from another agency which made a disability assessment.

In September 2016, the Social Security Administration changed its rules of evidence.  Among those changes included modifications to how the Social Security Administration will now view these other agencies awards.  Basically, under 20 CFR 404.1504 and 416.904 (the new regulations), the Social Security Administration will no longer make any analysis of its decision on how it considers decisions made by the other agencies.  As before, the Social Security Administration will continue not to be bound by the other agencies decisions.  The reasoning that the Social Security Administration gave for this rule change includes its belief that the decisions of the other agencies have no value to the Social Security Administration process of determining disability.  Another reason was that the medical record within the Social Security Administration record might only contain the award from the other agency and not the medical rationale.  An additional reason was an admission on the part of Social Security that the people who make an award under the Social Security disability rules, do not have a full understanding of the other agencies rules it uses to make awards.  Therefore, the award from the other agencies lacks context.  Finally, the Social Security Administration has concerns with the fact that Federal courts have interrupted SSR 06-3p differently.  According to Social Security, some Federal courts have required Social Security give “great,” or “substantial” weight to an award of benefits from the Veterans Administration absent some specific reason.  Even with the rule changes, Social Security must still consider the medical evidence which was used by other agencies when it decided to make an award.

The Social Security Administration still has a program in place which allows for quicker processing of disability applications for wounded warriors and for veterans who have VA compensation rating of 100% permanent and total disability.  For wounded warriors, to qualify for the expedited process, the disability has to have occurred while on active duty.  For the expedited process to occur for a veteran, the veteran must have a rating of 100% Permanent and Total.  In both of these cases, the military service member must identify his or herself to the Social Security Administration as either a wounded warrior or a veteran with 100% Permanent and Total.  Receiving expedited processing does guarantee an awarded Social Security disability benefits.

 

Indiana Trial Lawyers Association