The new "intellectual disability" Listing is here:



20 CFR Parts 404 and 416

[Docket No. SSA–2012–0066]

RIN 0960–AH52

Change in Terminology: ‘‘Mental Retardation’’ to ‘‘Intellectual Disability

AGENCY: Social Security Administration

ACTION: Final rule.

SUMMARY: This final rule adopts, without change, the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) we published in thFederal Register on January 28, 2013. We are replacing the term ‘‘mental retardation’’ with ‘‘intellectual disability’’ in our Listing of Impairment(listings) that we use to evaluate claims involving mental disorders in adults and children under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act) and in other appropriate sections of our rules.


PDF download Federal Register:


You may have noticed that as the House continues to hammer away, often wrongly, at the Disaiblity program and people with disabilities, a few people are responding.  Here is an example of such a good response:


"The recent AP article, “House investigators: Social Security lax in judging disability claims,” was misleading. The central claim — that Social Security is “lax” in evaluating disability — is clearly contradicted by the facts.

As an advocate for people with disabilities, I know how strict the disability criteria are. Most people who apply are denied, and only about 40 percent are awarded benefits — even after all stages of appeal. Many beneficiaries are terminally ill — about one in five male and one in six female beneficiaries die within five years of receiving benefits. Literally every day, I see people with significant disabilities who have been denied benefits; many die of the supposedly non-disabling impairments while waiting for a “fair” hearing.

The only intelligent and valid point made by the article is that the review of cases of people already found disabled is woefully under-funded. So are the programs that help disabled people get back into the workforce. Demographic changes are the primary reason for the increase in the number of claims — baby boomers are at the age when severe disability most frequently strikes and from which recovery is most limited.

No one knows when disability or illness will strike. That’s why Social Security Disability Insurance is an important part of our nation’s safety net. Instead of tearing down this vital program with myths and rumors, let’s focus instead on strengthening it for current and future generations.

Don Hanrahan

Letter: SSDI an essential safety net - Springfield, IL - The State Journal-Register





SSA Issues Proposed Regulations on Video Hearings

Comments due August 26  


To "protect the integrity of our programs and preserve limited resources," SSA has issued proposed regulations that would provide notice of a video hearing before a case is scheduled and/or assigned to an ALJ. 78 Fed. Reg. 38610 (June 27, 2013). Available at Comments are due no later than August 26, 2013. A more detailed article about the proposed revisions will appear in the June 2013 NOSSCR Social Security Forum.


The proposed change would notify the claimant prior to scheduling a hearing that the hearing may be held by video teleconferencing (VTC). The claimant would have 30 days from the date this notice is received (this is not the official "notice of hearing) to object to the VTC hearing. If the objection is "timely," an in-person hearing will be scheduled. However, there is a "limited exception" if the claimant moves while the request for hearing is pending. In that case, "we [SSA] will determine whether a claimant will appear in person or by [VTC]." Why this exception to the rule? The preface states:


This limited exception to the rule would allow us to protect the integrity of our programs while providing us with the flexibility to transfer cases when there is a legitimate change in residence and such a transfer would allow us to process the case more efficiently.


Other important changes proposed include:

  •     Setting a time limit for objecting to the time or place of the hearing. The claimant must notify SSA "at the earliest possible opportunity" but no later than 5 days before the hearing date or, if earlier, within 30 days after receipt of the notice of hearing. The ALJ will decide if "good cause" applies to reschedule. Some "minor revisions" are proposed for "good cause" to reschedule, e.g., removal of the example that the claimant lives closer to another hearing site [current 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.936(f)(6) and 416.1436(f)(6).
  •     Telephone hearings. The ALJ would be able to schedule a telephone hearing when (1) an in-person appearance is not possible, e.g., the claimant is incarcerated and VTC is not available at the facility; or (2) the ALJ determines, on his own or at the claimant's request, that "extraordinary circumstances" prevent the claimant from appearing in person or by VTC.

Nancy G. Shor
Executive Directo


Random chanceWhether you win or lose at a Social Security disability hearing depends uponmany factors. These include the nature of the disability, the details in your medical records, the creativity of your attorney, and where you stand in the complex framework of age, education, and work experience.

But the most critical factor, the factor that you cannot control, has to do with pure luck. That is, no matter how good the facts that you develop, no matter how eloquent and clever your attorney may be, it all comes down to a roll of the dice.

That "roll of the dice" can be summarized with one simple question. "Who is your judge?"  SSA does not standardize the outcome from its judges.  There is no testing of reliability of outcomes between SSA judges.  With exactly the same data, judges at SSA will determine the outcome of your life differently.  Many of the differences are "extreme."

Here is a page from the SSA website that will help many claimants figure out if they have lost the case before they walk into the hearing:

From the Social Security Administration website:

ALJ Disposition Data
FY 2013 (For Reporting Purposes: 09/29/2012 Through 05/31/2013)

A listing of hearings completion data by name of individual administrative law judges (ALJ) for all ALJs in ODAR. The data includes hearing office name, total dispositions, decisions, allowances, denials and fully favorable or partially favorable decisions.

I have placed these data into easy-to-sort spreadsheets for your use with additional columns showing the percentages of outcomes.

ODS Format

XLS Format