Q & A with 20+ year Social Security Disability Attorney Andrew Kinney
Q: What should Congress know about today’s Social Security Disability program?
A: As a lecturer on Social Security Disability and SSI benefits, much of my focus is on how medical evidence and legal arguments get you approved. As of this writing (2015), Congress has challenged the funding for the disability program to force changes in it. I will shift gears, then, and offer suggestions that—while controversial to some—may preserve the Social Security Disability and SSI programs for those who need them.
- Certification. Treating physicians or psychologists should certify those patients who are or will be unable to work full-time under the law for 1 year before their patients can apply for Social Security Disability and SSI benefits. Those who apply for benefits need ongoing, supportive medical evidence anyway. Why does SSA process benefit applications for those without supportive physicians, or with little or no treatment at all? Treatment should come first.
- Temporary Disability. Some disabilities are not permanent and are unlikely to last over 3 years. Why not flag these Social Security Disability and SSI approvals as temporary and change the regulations to terminate them in 3 years? If a treating physician or psychologist certifies ongoing disability at that time, benefits can continue. The current cessation system leaves most on benefits long past when they should need them. It doesn’t encourage those who can get better to get better.
- Drug Testing. Many of my clients over the past 20 years have gotten upset when people they know on Social Security benefits use illegal drugs or abuse alcohol. For those with a positive drug test, the Social Security regulations should authorize implied consent for further testing. Failure to seek recommended treatment or submit to further testing should cut off those who want benefits or who are on benefits. For those who really need the benefits, they must choose between themselves or their addictions. If they can’t or won’t, benefits should stop.
I recently forwarded these and other ideas to the U.S. House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee. Invite Congress and their staff to make changes that strengthen the Social Security Disability and SSI programs for the disabled workers who need them.
Andrew Kinney, Esq., 4/27/15