Advocates Slam Proposed Regulations for Social Security, Medical Evidence Rules

Sign for the Social Security Administration

by Andy Jones
November 23, 2016

The National Disability Rights Network and 32 other disability rights groups have come out strongly against new proposed regulations from the Social Security Administration, which provides new guidance for how administrative law judges should weigh medical evidence in disability benefits proceedings.

“These rules will not lead to more accurate decisions or decrease processing time,” the advocates wrote in public comments submitted to the SSA on November 6 [PDF], under the umbrella of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. “If anything, they will lead to more appeals, more remands, and more delays. The process of training adjudicators on this complex new regulation and adapting SSA systems to comply with it will be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive."

The CCD partially supports the proposed changes to the SSA’s “definition of acceptable medical source,” to encompass audiologists and advanced practice registered nurses. However, the CCD urged that the definition be further expanded to include physician assistants and licensed clinical social workers.

The CCD opposes a proposal that would eliminate a requirement that administrative law judges provide explanations as to how they consider decisions by other governmental entities, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, for determining whether someone has a disability. While the regulations state the change is necessary because of differences in how agencies measure disability, the advocates worry the change could lead to arbitrary results.

Finally, the CCD disagrees with a proposal that would deemphasize the so-called “treating physician rule,” which directs judges to provide additional weight to evidence from claimants' treating doctors. While the SSA argues the change reflects current trends toward people seeing additional specialists, the CCD counters that this emphasis is misplaced, as the claimant’s treating doctor is the person most able to provide a comprehensive assessment of a person’s condition.

The proposed regulations were published September 6 in the Federal Register.

Disability Rights Washington is the designated protection and advocacy agency in Washington and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.