Social Security Lawsuits: An Overview
New data suggests a possible upcoming three-year change in the number of Social Security lawsuits filed each year. July was another busy month for new Social Security lawsuits. Plus, three of the three highest ranked plaintiffs who won their cases in January were awarded reduced benefits in March, reducing their monthly benefit amounts to just under $364. While it’s not clear if or when the court will change the rules on what constitutes a “sufficient hardship” for receiving benefits, it is possible the changes will take place at the same time as the current changes.
Currently, the Social Security Administration awards its benefits on the basis of income. As long as someone can meet the basic requirements, she or he may be entitled to receive benefits. But it is possible, due to the large number of people filing frivolous claims and the fact that not all of those claims are approved, the number of beneficiaries claiming they have a disabling condition is growing every year.
Since Social Security cases are so expensive, the court is forced to limit its ability to award damages. The court cannot increase the award to cover the costs associated with handling Social Security lawsuits. Instead, the court is required to follow the laws passed by Congress, which means many of the changes to the law that may take place in the future may be temporary.
If Congress does pass a bill that allows the court to award Social Security benefits on the basis of income, the court may eventually adopt a more comprehensive approach to deciding who qualifies for benefits. For example, it may be able to order a person to obtain a certain level of medical care in order to obtain benefits.
Currently, the federal system only recognizes two types of conditions that are considered disabling: medical conditions that occur from past accidents and/or crimes. Many of these conditions, such as alcoholism and drug use, have been found to be impairments of the individual’s ability to work and are therefore not considered disabling conditions.
Other changes that may affect the number of Social Security lawsuits filed proposed changes to the definition of a disabled individual. A person with a mental illness may qualify for benefits as long as he has either a documented disorder or a medical condition that impairs his ability to work or an impairment that is expected to improve with time.
Other proposed changes that would affect the number of Social Security lawsuits filed include a proposal to extend the age of entitlement. up to age seventy-five, a proposal to extend benefits to people over age fifty, and a proposal to include family members who may be considered eligible for benefits. under Medicaid and Medicare into the Social Security system.
Because Social Security attorneys generally receive less than half of their compensation from the government for their services, some advocates are hoping that any changes to the laws that govern Social Security can result in lower attorney’s fees for them. If this is indeed the case, then the court will likely increase the number of individuals that are considered eligible for benefits, which could lead to fewer social security lawsuits.
Although the impact on Social Security lawsuits is uncertain at this time, it is possible that future legislation could eliminate many of the lawsuits filed each year. If this is the case, or if Congress does enact some type of legislation, the courts may decide the change is worth it because Social Security is a vital program and the cost of its operations cannot be avoided.
However, the future legislation could also change the criteria for Social Security benefits that is currently in place. For example, the government could require that a person suffer an impairment in order to file a lawsuit, in order to receive benefits from the program.
No matter what legislation is passed, there are some factors that are beyond the control of government agencies such as Social Security. This includes changes to eligibility standards for the law itself, and laws that may be passed by Congress. Any changes to the law could mean less Social Security lawsuits being filed.