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Get me rewrite! SSDI changes on horizon in 2014

Several new initiatives are kicking off in 2014 that should change the way the Social Security Administration's disability program works. Whether those changes are for the better may depend on your perspective. How long it will take to implement any part of the plans is impossible to know. We wanted to bring the projects to our readers' attention, though, because each offers insight into how the agency and the disability application process work.

For example: Disability claim reviewers and other workers who evaluate applications rely on some standardized tools to help them make the initial determination. One of the tools is a dictionary of job listings. The idea is to determine the scope of benefits based in part on whether the applicant's skills and abilities match any of those jobs.

In 2014, the agency will work on updating the dictionary for the first time in more than 20 years. The group may nix the entry for "show girl" or "blacksmith" or even "chicken sexer." The group may also add much-needed technology jobs that have sprung up since 1991.

Change is in the air, too, for administrative law judges -- attorneys who review and decide benefit appeals. To get the appeals backlog under control, the agency increased the number of cases assigned to each ALJ. In the past, the number had hovered between 500 and 700 cases a year. A few years ago, a handful of ALJs were able to review 1,000 cases or more, increasing the pressure and quotas for the other judges.

More is not always better, though. We'll explain in our next post.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Six Changes Social Security Is Making to Its Disability Program," Damian Paletta, Dec. 26, 2013

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