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New rules go into effect for Social Security disability claims

WASHINGTON D.C. -- It may soon be harder to file a disability claim with the Social Security Administration.

New regulations, which went into effect on Monday, are eliminating the so-called “treating-physician rule.”

Until now, the rule required benefits adjudicators to give significant weight to a physician’s report supporting an applicant’s claim for benefits.

Critics say this will likely make it harder for people to prove they're entitled to disability payments.

In their summary on the Federal Register, the Social Security Administration said the new rules are designed to “reflect modern healthcare delivery.”

Experts say the rule’s effect on benefits paid is unclear.

Charles Hankey, a disability attorney, says if the new rule signals the beginning of a trend, it could be concerning.

“It’s worrisome the way that trends are going, but a truly disabled person is going to be declared disabled if the case is properly put together and the facts are laid out and available,” he said.

The new rules will also no longer give added weight to disability determinations by other agencies such as the Department of Veteran’s Affairs

According to the Social Security Administration, the amount of people receiving benefits has declined for the first time in nearly 30 years. This as the percentage of claim approvals has also gone down. Currently about 8.8 million people receive benefits, the lowest amount in five years.

Charles Hankey says the new regulations will likely affect some benefit approvals, though to what extent is unclear.

“I doubt this one rule is going to prevent people from receiving their justly due benefits but, we’re going to have to see and it is worrisome,” he said.

To see the full summary of the new Social Security Administration disability regulations, click here.