Social Security Disability Approval May Depend on the Examiner in Massachusetts, Throughout Nation

April 13th, 2012

Last month, a RAND Corporation analyst told the House Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee that approval of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applications was highly dependent upon which examiner’s desk the case happened to land on. In a hearing on the SSDI program, Nicole Maestas told the subcommittee after accounting for individual case differences, approximately 15 percent of examiners approve six percent more applications than the average SSDI examiner. Another five percent of examiners approve about 12 percent more applications than an average examiner. Maestas also stated the difference was even more striking when initial application approval rates were examined. According to research performed by the RAND Corporation, up to 60 percent of applicants would likely have had a different case outcome if their application was reviewed by another examiner.

The subcommittee held hearings on the SSDI program in response to recent complaints regarding heavy caseloads, employee exhaustion and burnout, slow response times, and an exceedingly high rate of reversal of previously denied applications on appeal. According to Maestas, the SSDI appeals processcan take as long as two years. The RAND Corporation found that approximately 63 percent of applicants with musculoskeletal disabilities and about 39 percent of applicants with mental disabilities win benefits on appeal. The two categories now make up 59 percent of all SSDI benefit applications nationwide.

During the hearing, Liza Ekman, a senior policy advisor from Health & Disability Advocates stated Social Security Administration funding for the SSDI program should be increased. According to Ekman, additional funds ought to be allocated to provide increased training for SSDI adjudicators and improve the overall claims process. Ekman also told the subcommittee the Administration should do more to assist obviously disabled applicants.

Michael Astrue, Commissioner at the Social Security Administration, informed the subcommittee the Administration is now using more technology to improve the SSDI application process. He also stated the organization is making an effort to increase SSDI uniformity across the states. Currently, although the Social Security Administration has a nationwide definition of a disabled person, it is up to each state to make disability determinations. The Administration’s Office of Quality Performance is also being utilized to ensure applications are properly reviewed.

Federal SSDI was established to provide financial assistance to individuals who are unable to return to work for a period of at least one year. If you are unable to work due to a physical or mental disability, contact an experienced Boston social security disability lawyer to discuss the SSDI application process.

At the law firm of Pulgini & Norton, LLP, our skilled Braintree social security disability attorneys are available to help you file your claim for social security disability benefits. If you were previously denied social security benefits, our lawyers can also assist you throughout the appeals process. The dedicated attorneys at Pulgini & Norton represent disabled individuals throughout Massachusetts. To speak with a hardworking lawyer today about your social security disability claim, call Pulgini & Norton at 781-843-2200 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

RAND Analyst: Some SSDI Examiners Are Easy Graders , by Allison Bell,