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Flint Journal Ask the Attorney Column

Q. A judge held I was entitled to receive Social Security Disability, but I just got a letter saying Social Security wants to review my claim. Can they do this? (March 2017) (Updated Jan 2021)

A. Yes. Disabled persons who return to substantial work will eventually see their benefits terminated. Social Security also conducts reviews to determine if benefit recipients have experienced medical improvement. Social Security in recent years has invested substantially greater resources in re-evaluating claims on whether improvement has occurred. While Social Security’s overall operating budget is 10% smaller than what it was in 2010, the government spent over a billion dollars in 2015 in “program integrity” expenses to evaluate whether 1.9 million disabled persons were still disabled (up from less than a million persons in 2010.) As resources have been allocated differently, the waiting time for an administrative hearing to secure benefits has grown significantly. There are now over a million people in the country applying for disability who are waiting in line for 575 days or more for a hearing. President Trump’s executive order barring Social Security from hiring staff to replace retiring staff will not help with the backlog. Workers are required to pay into the Social Security trust fund and are promised they will be paid benefits if disabled. One has to question whether it is fair to require disabled workers to wait nearly two years for a hearing while a billion dollars gets spent on evaluating whether others are still disabled. In any event, feel free to call us for individualized advice regarding Social Security’s review of your claim.

–Attorney Robert J. MacDonald

Postscript:  The wait to obtain a hearing to secure benefits is down significantly, although because of COVID, hearings can not currently be done in person.  Social Security continues to allocate tremendous resources and money to review claims to see if benefits can be terminated. These reviews were also suspended temporarily due to the pandemic.