How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

Do Disability Examiners make bad decisions, or do Social Security Judges?

In answer to this question, my own opinion is that the real problem is disability examiners and the system they work in. The Social Security Disability and SSI disability system is federal, but every DDS operates independently. And decision-making is not uniform, not even between units in a DDS.

I think the real problem is that DDS examiners have a disinclination to approve too many cases. This is because external quality control (in the Atlanta region, this was known as DQB, or disability quality branch) tended to send back as "returns", cases for which DQB found errors in decision-making on the part of disability examiners) and usually cases that had been marked for approval by disability examiners. Very seldom was a return a case that had been denied by an examiner. The effect was that approvals were suppressed.

I remember one case in which a person suffered second and third degree burns to 25 percent of their body. They had been discharged at one point by UNC hospital but had been readmitted because of renal failure subsequent to their injuries. Our unit manager forced the case to be denied. The unit medical consultant went along with the unit supervisor (how independent does this make the unit medical consultant then?) and the rationalization was that the level of stricture from the burns was not significant enough that it couldn't resolve within 12 months.

Completely wrong. That was a good example of unit supervisors exercising their influence on decision-making simply because they want to suppress approvals and reduce the potential for returns from external quality control, which makes them look bad to upper DDS agency management. In other words, state government employees subverting the system for their perceived career goals.

Given this, it is not surprising that Social Security judges reverse so many of these bad decisions. Judges do not answer to management. They are autonomous. And in being so, they re-introduce a level of fairness into the system since the state-run DDS agencies have the opposite effect. Which is why it is so disheartening to see attempts to paint all judges as being too lenient.

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Social Security Attorneys, Disability Representatives

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.