You Can Help Shape Our Disability Policy

November 2, 2015 • By

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Last Updated: November 2, 2015

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Social Security needs your help. We are asking for responses to an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on how we should modernize our vocational rules, which we first published in 1978. These are the rules our disability decision makers use to decide whether an adult with a severe disabling condition can do any job in the national economy.

The Social Security Act sets out a strict definition of disability. Our agency pays benefits to eligible people who can’t work because of a disabling mental or physical condition expected to last at least one year or result in death. This medical condition must prevent the person from doing not only their previous work, but any other substantial work.

On Friday, November 20 in Washington DC, Social Security will host a National Disability Forum. The meeting will focus on the realities of employment for individuals with severe disabling conditions, especially for those who are older, have low skills, or low education levels. The purpose is to gather insight on circumstances such as age, education, and work experience, helping us understand the effect these may have on an individual’s ability to work and to adjust to other work. The National Disability Forum looks to consider how these vocational factors can and should inform our evaluation of an applicant’s ability to work consistent with the Social Security Act’s definition of disability.

Paul N. Van de Water will moderate a panel of experts from varying perspectives on these topics. Following the panel presentation, we encourage comments and discussion from all attendees. Your involvement is of the utmost importance in helping us further enhance our disability determination process.

Comments presented during the forum, panel, and open discussion period will be included in the public record for the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule-making, which is available in the Federal Register. To review and provide written comments, go to www.regulations.gov and enter SSA-2014-0081-0001 in the search box. Comments will be accepted until December 14.

If you plan to attend the forum, either in person or by phone, please register by Monday, November 16, 2015. For more information about the National Disability Forum series, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ndf.

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About the Author

Gina Clemons, Associate Commissioner, Office of Disability Policy

Gina Clemons, Associate Commissioner, Office of Disability Policy


  1. Huey W.

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  2. Sherri

    There are some people on here who are about to have karma bite them. No empathy at all for people who have to struggle. It could be you with the health problem – so beware.
    I would like to see more help for people who would like to work but cannot work for more than a few hours per day. It would help their morale to be able to do productive work. Also for disabled people who do freelance work – which means that one month they may have money and the next month no money coming in, this needs to be addressed so that they can still do some work.

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  6. Vincent G.

    Very informative, thanks for sharing


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  8. Bev W.

    I have experienced how ridiculous the rules are for SSI. My family member has developed heart condition (congestive heart failure and Atrial Fib) because of an illness that was undiagnosed. He has been unable to work a full time position for 3 years — due to his health. And, has applied for SSI (because he had worked almost 14 years full time) – He was denied — OK – appeal done. Lawyer hired. Denied again — Appeal done – -Court date set up – (after waiting 2 years) and went for evaluation, — However, the government nurse (in her judgement) decided this was NOT creating disability for this person – and so was denied again!! Instead the nurse decided it was an anxiety problem (although cardiologist disagreed!!)
    and for the patient to be seen by a psychologist! – Now isn’t that a little ridiculous??? So against doctors recommendation, he is supposed to work??? And, when it makes him ill or kills him, who cares?? Certainly not the social security determination staff. However, he paid in to this program all the years working. And, I believe if he just had a drug problem, or an alcohol problem, he would have been approved!! This government process is ridiculous. How about relying on the medical records – the doctors opinion – and the FACTS!!!

  9. David S.

    If you are sincere,
    and really want to improve your service,
    you will personally go uncover and apply for SSI.

    You will stand in line,
    wait on hold, wait six months only to be denied
    figure out how to survive with no money
    be scrutinized and dehumanized.
    And then it will become crystal clear to you
    what needs to be improved.
    I dare you to give it a try.
    It will open your eyes.

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