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Study: Social Security Disability determinations are not uniform

The Social Security Administration has one definition of a disability. However, each state has its own agency to determine whether an applicant is entitled to disability coverage. As a result, there is currently little uniformity in applying for federal benefits across the 50 states.

Unfortunately, this absence of an objective, uniform standard negatively affects some of those applicants who truly need the help of Social Security Disability benefits.

Instead, according to recently released research by RAND Corp. in California, the outcome of SSD benefits cases is based largely upon which examiner handles the case -- particularly at the initial determination level.

Amazingly, the RAND research showed that it is possible that 60 percent of applicants would receive different results if they had a different examiner at the initial determination level.

While the appeals process helps to correct blatant errors, RAND researchers still found that even after an appeal, 23 percent of applicants would still have ended up with a different result if they had a different initial examiner.

This is not good news for those who desperately need SSD income. Because the appeals process can take up to two years, this is a lot of wasted time to correct mistakes that should not have happened in the first place. Not to mention that many times these applicants have been struggling to survive on little or no income.

So what can be done about these problems in the current Social Security system? Should claimants who are obviously disabled have to go through the full application process? Should they be required to wait for an appeal? Can technology somehow improve efficiency and quality of an examiner's work? At the very least, do examiners need more training and guidance?

These are just some of the issues that will need to be addressed in order to improve the current processes within the Social Security Administration.

Source: LifeHealthPRO, "RAND Analyst: Some SSDI Examiners Are Easy Graders," Allison Bell, March 20, 2012

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