Social Security has an odd, two-tiered system for disability claims. The initial and reconsideration claims are decided by Disability Determination Services (DDS), a state agency. For denied claims that are appealed to the hearing level (and you should always appeal your denial), the claim goes to a Social Security hearing office, which is actually operated by the the SSA. At the hearing level, your claim is evaluated by staff attorneys and ultimately decided by a U.S. Administrative Law Judge.
Nationally, the majority of claims that reach the hearing level are granted. This raises the obvious question: Why were they denied by DDS in the first place?
Sometimes there is new evidence by the time a claim gets a hearing. But often, there was no logical reason for the initial DDS denial.
Tim Moore, a former disability examiner, wrote about this disconnect between the state DDS agencies and the federal Social Security hearing offices recently on his blog. Here is an excerpt:
if a claim that was denied twice by a disability examiner (initial claim and reconsideration levels) is later approved by a judge, what was the point?
More specifically, what was the point of so needlessly wasting so much agency time and money, otherwise known as taxpayer dollars, in this fashion.
And, further, what was the point of forcing so many tens of thousands of individuals who were initially denied but were likely to get approved later at a hearing into a needlessly drawn out wait often resulting in bankruptcy and home foreclosure?
Answer: there was no point.
Read his entire post, entitled Social Security Disability Problems.
It is frustrating to have disability claims that you know will be granted at the hearing level denied by DDS. And it is difficult to reassure clients that these DDS denials can be turned around. It is unfortunate that we are asking the question: Is the DDS system broken?