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The response to the first month of the Blog Roundup has been terrific, and many have been able to discover a disability blog not previously seen. This week's roundup is the most varied one yet in terms of format, with traditional blog posts, a video blog post and a podcast.

Here are the most notable

Disability Determination Services (DDS) makes the medical-vocational determinations for Social Security claims at the initial and reconsideration levels.

I have noticed that claims are moving slower lately at the Maine DDS. I checked yesterday on a claim on Reconsideration. The Reconsideration request was received by the Maine DDS on May 12. That's 6 weeks ago. The claim

Reconsideration is an intermediate step in the Social Security disability claim process. If DDS denies your initial claim and you appeal, the claim goes right back to DDS for Reconsideration. In 5 out of 6 claims, DDS just denies the claim again. For these claimants, Reconsideration is an unnecessary detour on the way to

Disability Determination Services (DDS) is the state agency that makes the initial and reconsideration determinations on Social Security disability claims. 

I saw three different claims denied at the reconsideration level this month. All involved chronic pain. All were productive people prior to developing debilitating medical conditions. All had terrific medical source statements from the treating physician, which were ignored by DDS.  I just don’t understand these denials. I expect all three of these claims to be granted at the hearing level.

There seems to be a real disconnect at DDS when evaluating disability claims that involve chronic pain. For some claimants, such as those with back problems or those with fibromyalgia, it is the chronic pain that prevents that person from working.

Maybe there is an empathy gap at DDS, or perhaps better training is needed. I don’t know. There certainly seems to be a disregard (or a skewed interpretation) of Social Security regulation 20 C.F.R. 404.1527(d)(2) and related Social Security Ruling 96-02p, which require that controlling weight be given to a treating physician’s opinion, if that opinion is not inconsistent with the case record.    Continue Reading DDS and Claims Involving Chronic Pain

What weighs 50 pounds? This has been on my mind lately, because I have been working on a Social Security disability claim for a client who was given a medium exertional residual functional capacity by a physician at Disability Determination Services (DDS). A medium RFC requires (among other things) the ability to lift and carry 50 pounds for up to one-third of a workday.

I am often puzzled when I see a medium RFC, particularly for a claimant who is 55+ years old and has worked steadily for 35 years. Do they think that this person stopped work for no reason? Did they not look at the sterling work history? Do they understand that when someone complains repeatedly about back pain to the doctor, and has xrays and MRIs, that there is a genuine impairment? It is perplexing that a DDS physician or examiner would consider these things and still assess an RFC at the medium exertional level.

Continue Reading 50 pounds