Mar 15, 2016

Social Security Ruling 16-3p: A Disability Claimant's Honesty Doesn't Matter

     The Social Security Administration will be issuing Ruling 16-3p on Evaluation of Symptoms In Disability Claims tomorrow. Here's some excerpts:
...[W]e are eliminating the use of the term “credibility” from our sub - regulatory policy, as our regulations do not use this term. In doing so, we clarify that subjective symptom evalua tion is not an examination of an individual’s character. Instead, we will more closely follow our regulatory language regarding symptom evaluation . ...
In evaluating an individual’s symptoms, it is not sufficient for our adjudicators to make a single, conclusory statement that "the individual's statements about his or her symptoms have been considered" or that "the statements about the individual’s symptoms are (or are not) supported or consistent." It is also not enough for our adjudicators simply to recite the factors described in the regulations for evaluating symptoms. The determination or decision must contain specific reasons for the weight given to the individual’s symptoms, be consistent with and supported by the evidence, and be clearly articulated so the individual and any subsequent reviewer can assess how the adjudicator evaluated the individual’s symptoms. ... 
In evaluating an individual’s symptoms, our adjudicators will not assess an individual’s overall character or truthfulness in the manner typically used during an adversarial court litigation. The focus of the evaluation of an individual’s symptoms should not be to determine whether he or she is a truthful person. ...

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't think their honesty ever mattered anyway - so, nothing new here

Anonymous said...

Taking away a Judge's discretion for the poor that have very few medical records...

Johnny Cash said...

Actually I think the ruling helps. The ALJ shouldn't be able to say that that the claimant isn't credible because of a felony, failed drug test, or other issues that go to general credibility but have no bearing on particular symptoms alleged.

Anonymous said...

Those Claimants that due to condition are poor historians and those that sometimes have every condition listed on the latest Yahoo Health pages could benefit from them.

Anonymous said...

There was a decision handed down by the 4th Circuit (sorry, I don't recall the name of the case) which emphasized that a record of long-term employment was a factor to be considered in favor of the claimant's credibility. However, I've not seen this to have any influence under the present younger ALJs.

Anonymous said...

@ 2:43PM, nothing influences the new younger ALJs except the prospect of having a long term job that they will keep based on following the dictates of the Agency, even if they are inconsistent with the law.

Anonymous said...

3:52, nothing is as consistent as the inconsistencies in the Rules, Regulations, and Policies of the Agency.

Anonymous said...

@ 2:43. it works both ways, if "credibility" can't be used negatively, you can't expect it to be used as a favorable factor.

Anonymous said...

Bad people and liars can become disabled. I think the ruling tells the adjudicators to do their job, which is to determine disability and not to punish people for bad character or past bad actions. We have criminal laws and courts for that task.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what precipitated this Ruling?

Anonymous said...

2:43PM ,,,

This is spot on, and so very true!

Anonymous said...

Oops, I am referring to 3:42PM's comments about the younger ALJ's.

Anonymous said...

So proof bad things happen to bad people...good to know

Anonymous said...

Going in the direction of eliminating the need for aljs. Note the statement:

In evaluating an individual’s symptoms, our adjudicators will not assess an individual’s overall character or truthfulness in the manner typically used during an adversarial court litigation.

In other words, our adjudicators are not real judges. Not news, just clarifying the issue.

Anonymous said...

A distinction should be made between determinations of "overall" credibility based on a claimant's checkered past, and "specific" credibility based things such as documented deceptiveness to medical providers, CDI reports, inconsistent reporting of symptoms, and testimony given before the ALJ that is contradicted by other parts of the record. The former I try to avoid; the latter is part of my job as a wearer of a three-cornered hat.

Johnny Cash said...

@5:22am, funny how you only mentioned things that negatively impact the credibility of symptoms. Biased much?

Anonymous said...

5:22, are you a pirate???

Anonymous said...

As I recall from my law school classes and bar exam many years ago, there were/are many evidentiary rules regarding admission/relevancy of various types of evidence which are taken to prove or disprove cases. I guess that this rule is just SSA's admission that its adjudication and hearings aren't real courts and aren't necessarily looking for the ultimate truth of a claim. But, no surprise.

Amishboy51 said...

@11:51, nice that you're able to find support everywhere for gratuitous ALJ insults, but SSA uses the collective term "adjudicators" in its rulings to indicate that they apply to DDS as well as to ALJs.

Tim said...

9:53 -Spot on, at least in this era!. So, if it's all about what's in the records... doctors "make records for my use, not for disability! and "it's against company policy" to fill out RFC forms (company has a monopoly in the area and adjacent areas with the same specialists won't take new patients from your area), GPs from the area won't fill out RFCs either (company policies), what is the claimant supposed to do? SSA claims the system is not adversarial, but if it was, at least your credibility would mean something!

Tim said...

By the way, my question is not rhetorical. I really want to know what a claimant needs to do!!!!

Anonymous said...

The biggest reason for this change is to try to get the DDSs to follow a reasonable, uniform, and implementable policy. SSA's Office of Disability Policy (the folks who wrote this policy) collaborate with ODAR, but are more DDS focused.

Anonymous 42 said...

One of the reasons for the new SSR is because courts have consistently complained about use of the stock language about credibility in ALJ decisions.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the position description for ALJ's notes that they "will evaluate credibility". As usual TPTB not having a clue as to what is going on.

Anonymous said...

"Liars can be disabled." as 7:03 pm states above, but such claimants are more difficult to evaluate -- excluding: true mental illness where the same story twice in-a-row and continually confabulates.

More challenge for the decision writer following the 15 min quickie hearing and writing directions consisting of "Deny, not credible." ,

Anonymous said...

Poor credibility analysis was a reason listed in 20% of remands. That's a big part of why this was necessary.

Anonymous said...

PR move.

Anonymous said...

some ALJS make character judgments against people with addictions and prison records - won't those ALJs will need to be more discreet about their own biases under ther new SSR?

Anonymous said...

Why even have hearings?

Credibility seems like one of the major reasons to have hearings especially in person. Another confusing ruling.

SoccerMan said...

Confusing ruling for whom? ALJs have had a long easy ride denying benefits by citing bogus assassination of character of helpless claimants who are truly disable, I think they now have to read the whole medical record and cite the medical reason to support a disapproval....the day they will make a claim of not disable because a claimant sat through a 30 minutes hearing is over....

Anonymous said...

I agree with 11:51, this is heading towards ending the ALJ level. ALJs should pray for mercy from the Supreme Judge. He will show mercy to the ALJs who have shown mercy.