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. MAson

  2. Sharon M.

    We need to stop the doctors from diagnosing some of these children with autism. In the 90’s it was ADHD. So many families jump on that band wagon. It makes me sick to think that after working almost 50 years, my social security benefit will be less than that of a child receiving SSI for ADHD or some spectrum of autism.
    VOTE FOR DONALD TRUMP!! He will investigate this SSI farce.

  3. Kathy G.

    I am already 64 and getting my late husband SS, but, I have breast cancer, Hep C and I also have crappy insurance so, every time I try to go to doctors, I am broke when I leave..I just need alittle more money than I am getting, just to survive..Is it possible for me to get on SSI Disability? How do I do it..Thanks so much..

  4. Mark W.

    In 2015 I received a notice for SS that they felt I was no longer disabled but I could submit an appeal. If I submitted an appeal I was told my disability payments and Medicare would continue until my appeal was resolved. However, my disability payments and my Medicare were stopped. I was evaluated by a SS appointed doctor who stated I was still disabled in a report he submitted to SS and I received a letter stating they considered me still disabled and they would reinstate my disability payments and my Medicare. This was in November 2015 and I was told it would take a few weeks. The SS Payment Center has still not resolved the issue and the local SS office is issuing emergent disability payments on an irregular basis. But my Medicare is still not activated and I am receiving calls from my doctor and hospital that they would like to be paid. I have worked with my local SS office in Prescott AZ and they have told me that they have done everything they could and it is now in the hands of the SS Payment Center. What does it take to get something like this resolved.

  5. technology b.

    How do I add Facebook comment box to Blogger, different in each post?


  6. Diane H.

    Sad to see that so many people here who would rather see fellow Americans suffer or die than receive benefits, on the grounds that they paid little or nothing into Social Security. I think of all the elderly women like my mother who were full time homemakers (not paying into Social Security), who are able to survive today because of Social Security. Social Security was not intended to serve as a retirement savings account, but actually was established on the basis of “the common good.”

  7. Jack C.

    The sad part of SS disability is once you start receiving it you have it for life even for those who don’t deserve it. SS disability recipients should have to get checked every 6 months just like if they were on regular disability thru a private company. I know 2 SS/SSI auditors and they just laugh about how people take advantage of the system. congress sure wont step in because its always election time no wonder the system is going broke.

    • Ray F.

      We appreciate your concern Jack. The Social Security Act sets out a strict definition of disability, and 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. Those who qualify based on our strict definition of disability are among the most severely disabled people in the country.
      The Social Security Administration conducts Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR) from time to time to make sure the individuals receiving checks are still eligible to get them. Generally, if medical improvement is possible, we will do a CDR approximately every 3 years. If not, we may review it less frequently.

      • Michael

        That a lie I was denied twice I have PTSD,MAJOR DEPRESSION,ANXIETY MMD…bulging fractured degenerative disc problems from neck to lower back atrial fibrillation gurd tear in shoulder pancreatitis can’t walk copd,ASTHMA,take 15 meds I was discriminated for being a firefighter at 911 when I been a firefighter since 1988 and saw so many things that cause my mental. Problems now yes 911 was a major factor vivid dream feeling sometimes I’m not worth the life I have and so many more problems .when I see people that get approved that are just fat there is a problem with the system and I agree with the every 6 month rule I’m forgetting problems that I have because I have memory problems I only remember the tragedies in my life …it’s a shame the lawyer I have didn’t feel well that day and she discriminated 911 and me bein on pain meds in her report a comment was I wanted my dr to stop the insulin shots for pain meds lmao why would I say that I said I wanted to stop the insulin because it was hard sticking myself every for the replacement of.metformin which is a.pill form … it’s not fair ….but I guess life isn’t fair!!!

  8. Robert M.

    I was born with congenital muscular dystrophy and am wheelchair-bound unable to walk. I also have joint contractures affecting both legs and both arms all four limbs. Limited range of motion along with weak muscles equal unable to work at a substantial gainful activity.

    Although I was approved for disability benefits without the need to appeal or hire an attorney, the approval process still took several months. I’ve heard countless stories of others disability applications taking several years to get approved even with the help of an attorney.

    Despite my permanent disability status I like all other disability recipients must undergo a continuing disability review every three years or so to ensure we are still disabled.

    Receiving disability benefits even for severely permanently disabled is anything but easy and quick.

  9. Disabled b.

    There are so many on disability who do not deserve it, you would be astounded! Especially now that Obama told the judges to make it easier, and to put more people on disability. (By doing that, he made his unemployment numbers look better.) What a great president–making it look like he’s putting people back to work, when he is actually only costing those who ARE willing to work more of their hard-earned money. There is the lady who had a parotid (salivary) gland problem 5 years ago. There is a 20-year-old healthy male who had a “seizure” 6 years ago which was determined to be due to “stress”. He takes no medications and has not had a seizure since, but he continues to collect disability. There are countless trolls on disability for anxiety. The abuses go on and on, and it would surprise me if they don’t outnumber those with actual disabilities. The only thing they know how to do is to keep voting the Democratic Party into office, to keep the money flowing to them. The Democrats will apparently never learn that you can’t solve a problem by throwing money at it.

  10. Licensed S.

    Although Medicaid is required in every state, it is left up to each state to determine what seervices will and won’t be offered in their Medicaid packages. In Indiana, prior to 2010, there was a $500 yearly cap on dental coverage through Medicaid, not unlike the employer provided health care insurance that I myself have, and pay premiums for. Due to a lawsuit 5 years ago, the ceiling for dental coverage in Indiana has lifted, and adults and children are not limited in the dollar amount paid for by Medicaid. Medicaid in Indiana does not however pay for dentures or partial plates. If you think that Medicaid should be providing more complete medical services, that is an issue to take up with your local State senator or representative, however, most voters are reluctant to allocate more tax dollars to Medicaid services. The original question had to do w/ working and still recieving RSDI and SSI benefits. It seems as if the current system of allowing/encouraging the disabled community to seek paid employment can only be beneficial

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