When you apply for Social Security disability, your claim goes for its initial review to an agency called Disability Determination Services (DDS.) The state of Arizona employs the claims examiners at DDS. This is true even though these DDS workers are assigned to review Federal claims. (Why Social Security uses such a system is beyond me.) DDS claims examiners gather your medical records and then send those records to a doctor to review. The doctors who review these records are called Medical Consultants (MCs).
They Are Not Sending Their Best
As you might imagine, DDS is not getting the Dean of Harvard Medical School to be an MC. Most of the physicians doing this are retired or otherwise not actively
in practice. By itself, this will lower the quality of the medical reviews. It's not uncommon for an MC to have last put a stethoscope to a live patient's chest decades ago.
A New GAO Report
The Government Accountability Office, or GAO, looked into DDS's use of MCs. In a lengthy report, they offered some recommendations to improve the practice. Chief among these was that DDS do a better job of screening their MCs and also giving them better training. At present, DDS limits their reviews of potential MCs to checking a database of individuals barred from doing business with the Federal government. Disturbingly, 14 State DDS agencies could not confirm that they took even this basic step. 9 more said they did not provide some element of either basic or refresher training for their MCs.
Understandable, But Not Acceptable
I suspect that it is difficult to find retired doctors to agree to be MCs. For this reason, I can understand why a DDS might cut corners when hiring and/or training MCs. But, the work of the MCs is far too important to allow for any deviation from Social Security policies.
Will Anything Change?
No one can know what, if anything, Social Security will do with the GAO report. Given the overwhelming inertia of such massive bureaucracies as Social Security, a good bet is that nothing will change.
Harder Than Ever To Get Approved
Virtually all initial applications for Social Security disability are denied. Knowing that DDS agencies are cutting corners and not following Social Security rules helps to explain why. This means that it is harder than it should be to get Social Security disability. If you have been denied and would like to talk about it, please contact me.