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Reconsideration is an intermediate step in the Social Security disability claim process. If DDS denies your initial claim and you appeal, the claim goes back to a different claim examiner at DDS for Reconsideration. In 5 out of 6 claims, the new examiner denies the claim again. For most claimants, Reconsideration is an unnecessary detour on the way to a hearing by an administrative law judge.

There are ten "prototype" states, however, that skip the Reconsideration step. In those states, the appeal of a denied claim proceeds directly to a hearing with an Administration Law Judge. The 10 prototype states are: Alabama, Alaska, California (Los Angeles North and West areas), Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York (Brooklyn and Albany areas), and Pennsylvania. Social Security has been evaluating this streamlined disability process in these states since 1999.

The SSA is planning to reinstate the Reconsideration step in the prototype states, starting with the state of Michigan, and then Colorado. Commissioner Astrue testified before Congress on April 27th on this issue.

I handle Social Security disability cases in both Maine and New Hampshire. Maine has Reconsideration, and New Hampshire does not. So I see claims routed to a hearing both with and without the Reconsideration step. Personally, I do not think that Reconsideration adds much to the process, and it is the source of significant delays here in Maine.

Of course, about 15% of claims are allowed at Reconsideration, so the number of claims appealed to the hearing level is reduced by the Reconsideration step. But that reduction comes at the expense of an additional 4-6 month wait for the 85% of claimants whose claims are denied again at Reconsideration.

So while reinstating Reconsideration would help to reduce the backlog at the Social Security hearing offices in prototype states, it mostly just shifts the backlog from the hearing offices to the DDS state agencies. From the claimant's perspective, there is no difference. 

The SSA wants to have the same Disability Case Processing System for all the DDS agencies. Currently, each state DDS has its own unique computer software, and that has got to be a nightmare for Social Security.  Having one software system shared by all the DDS agencies pretty much requires that all the states have the same claim process, which means all the states must have the Reconsideration step. That, rather than backlog reduction, is the real reason for the switch back to Reconsideration for the prototype states.