Social Security Ruling is not Good News for Claimants

What happened? In a move that the Social Security Administration describes as simply intended to reduce “unnecessary workloads” a significant ruling has been changed. Before the change, a claimant could file a new disability claim while his prior claim was pending. Now, under Social Security Ruling 11-1p, a claimant no longer will be allowed to have two claims for the same type of benefits pending at the same time. Instead, a claimant who has been denied benefits at a hearing will have to choose between pursuing an appeal — or filing a new application.

Why does this ruling matter? This ruling presents many claimants with a difficult choice: wait to file a new claim until you hear from the Appeals Council on your first claim (a wait of as long as two years), thereby losing the benefits you might have received under a second claim OR forego potentially years of back benefits under the first claim because you’ve dropped it in order to file a second claim, in the hope of getting paid more quickly.

Is this legal? Many social security attorneys are asking this question. Since the change was made via a ruling rather than a rule, there was no notice or opportunity to comment as is required for a rule.

Is this fair? The National Association of Social Security Representatives (NOSCCR) stated on July 28, 2011 with regard to the new ruling: “This policy change is obviously terrible for claimants whose conditions have deteriorated and have even become terminal. The change means that representatives will have to stop advising clients to file new claims, even if a new claim would likely be allowed. Instead, representatives will need to discuss with their clients the benefits and drawbacks to pursuing the appeal without filing a new claim, or dropping the appeal and proceeding with a new claim. Clearly, this policy change will hurt many claimants. This is a very unfair choice to force claimants to make.”