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The Social Security Disability and SSI decision process in Illinois
Disability examiners, the individuals who, in theory, render disability claim decisions in Illinois at the application and reconsideration levels do not actually make the decisions themselves. That is to say, they do not have unilateral authority to stamp an approval or denial on a Social Security Disability or SSI case (aside from a minority of single decision makers).
In actuality, the decision is initially made by an examiner, agreed upon (or not) by a medical or psychological consultant who is attached to the examiner's unit, and then finally signed off on, or overruled by, the examiner's unit supervisor.
This, of course, is simply the long way to state that decisional authority for the outcome of a case rests not with the examiner, but with the examiner's supervisor. Why is this fact significant? Because unit supervisors at state processing agencies are extremely concerned with the statistics of the units they supervise.
Specifically, the number of returns they receive from quality control units. Returns are viewed by supervisors, as Joseph Heller (author of Catch-22) might say, as "blackeyes". No supervisor wants blackeyes, particularly when upper management has the tendency of comparing one's unit's statistics against all the others. Returns also tend to be...drumroll please...cases that were approved, not cases that were denied.
Now you see the rub. But's lets review the facts.
1. Unit supervisors, not disability examiners, have the final say-so on claims (at least before they leave their units).
2. Unit supervisors hate to receive blackeyes, otherwise known as returns.
3. Returns tend to be cases that were approved, not cases that were denied.
It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out where this all leads, does it? Human nature being what it is, it simply means that as long as A) unit supervisors are reviewed according to the number of "returns" their units receive and B) returns tend to be "cases that were approved", then the following will always tend to be true, which is C) unit supervisors will always tend to discourage the disability examiners who work in their respective units from making too many approvals. Because "too many approvals" may potentially mean more returns, and returns, which are viewed as errors, do not make supervisors look good in the eyes of their superiors.
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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.