Feds Seek Full Disclosure|in SS Disability Cases

     WASHINGTON (CN) – In response to media scrutiny and an ensuing congressional investigation, the Social Security Administration has proposed changes to make clear that disability claims require full disclosure.
     The action was prompted by reports in the media of widespread fraud, with many applicants withholding information when it might prevent them from receiving aid. The reports then triggered several congressional hearings.
     The proposed changes would require applicants to inform the government about any evidence, whether favorable or unfavorable, regarding a disability claim. Currently, the regulations are somewhat vague and a claimant’s duties are described in different ways, but basically only require applicants to provide records and evidence that the SSA can use to reach a conclusion.
     The application process will also be clarified by requiring “all evidence known to you that relates to whether or not you are blind or disabled, whether favorable or unfavorable.” The new regulation also will add a paragraph excluding evidence subject to attorney-client privilege and also clarify that applicants must provide their physicians’ names if asked.
     The Social Security Act already gives the Social Security commissioner broad authority in making rules regarding how evidence is collected and used in disability claims. The SSA can also levy fines against anybody who withholds or misrepresents information about a claim.
     The SSA consulted with the Administrative Conference of the United States, which made some recommendations about any proposed changes, including that any disclosure obligation be placed on the claimant rather than a representative of the claimant. It also recommended that the disclosure obligations steer clear of attorney-client privileged information and that the disclosure obligations be written in a way as to minimize subjective judgments.
     The public has until April 21 to comment on the proposed changes and they will not be in effect until the comments are evaluated and a final rule is published in the Federal Register.

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