Kaiser Health News, June 15, 2017
Alex Smith, KCUR

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[...] In the U.S., fewer than half of people who apply for disability benefits — about 45 percent — are ultimately accepted, says Lisa Ekman with the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives. Getting a hearing takes an average of nearly 600 days.

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“It is not easy to get disability benefits, and it’s a very complicated and difficult process,” Ekman said.

It may become even harder for people like Hashmi, whose disability is difficult to see or measure. This spring, the Social Security Administration introduced changes to fight fraud and streamline the application process, including a new rule that removes special consideration given to a person’s longtime doctor. Ekman said this is a mistake.

“Those changes would now put the evidence from a treating physician on the same weight as evidence from a medical consultant employed to do a one-time brief examination or a medical consultant they had do a review of the paper file and may have never examined the individual,” Ekman said.

She said this could lead to more denials for disabled people with complex conditions like lupus, multiple sclerosis or schizophrenia. These illnesses can affect patients in very different ways and may be hard for an unfamiliar doctor or nurse to evaluate. Ekman said more denials will lead to more appeals, which will increase the backlog. [...]

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