Proposed Social Security Disability and SSI Changes Analyzed – Part III

This entry is the third and final installment of a review of changes to Social Security Disability and SSI proposed by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) that would supposedly save $3 trillion from entitlement plans. Listed below are some of his “reforms” with some brief comments in italics from this author.

  • The government should be represented at the ALJ hearing.  This proposal has several problems.  First, this was tried in the past and found to not be a wise use of resources.  Second, Senator Coburn must not be informed as to the day to day reality of the ALJ hearing process in some jurisdictions.  Simply reading district court and Federal Appellate cases demonstrate that an adversarial system already exists in many courtrooms.  Third, this would add an enormous expense and growth in government.  Attorneys and staff would need to be added by the thousands!  Not a very Tea Party wise idea!
  • Update the grids by raising the ages in the age categories: 58-60 for “approaching advanced age” and 61 and older for “advanced age.”  Remove the inability to speak English as a factor.  Raising the age categories may work in some circumstances to better reflect the changing profile of worker over the last 30 years, but a blanket change would harm most those that have the greatest difficulty adjusting their skills.  For instance, for workers that have been in more skilled, sedentary work, increasing the age categories would be a good idea.  However, there are still many workers across America with only high school education (or less) that are over 50 with factory or industrial work backgrounds.  As less and less of those jobs exist in the economy, it is actually going to be more difficult for a worker over the age of 50 to find gainful employment now then it was 30 years ago.  Moving the age categories up for workers with a background of medium, heavy, etc. unskilled, semi-skilled backgrounds would be extremely harmful.

Impose time limits for benefits. If “medical improvement expected,” receive two years of disability benefits; If “medical improvement possible,” receive three years of disability benefits; If “medical improvement not expected,” receive five years of disability benefits. “For claimants that truly remain disabled and unable to work, they could re-apply for benefits at any point during the final year of the benefit term.”  Pure idiocy!  This would be asking ALJs to be making medical determinations that most doctors would be reluctant to do.  If “medical improvement not expected” then why the heck cut off benefits.  Only cut off benefits if actual medical improvement has occurred or if the worker has returned to gainful employment.  This proposal would lead to an avalanche of work for the Administration processing second and third claims for people previously adjudicated disabled and for which no improvement has occurred.

If you need more information about a personal injury matter (car wreck, boating accident, slip and fall, etc.), SSD/SSI matter, EEOICPA claim, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611 or through our website at




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