Monday, August 06, 2007

** - why I created **.com

I've been writing this blog, I believe, for the better part of two years. And, during that time, I've posted about the social security disability system, how it works, how claimants may possibly better their chance of winning benefits, various mistakes to avoid, and so forth.

However, other than providing a link to my original site, **, I haven't really discussed it much. And that's what this post will be about.

I've mentioned several times on this blog that I am a former disability examiner. What does that mean? It means that, at one time, in addition to having been a caseworker in a number of programs (food stamps, afdc, and medicaid) I was a specialist whose daily work involved reading medical records and rendering disability determinations, or decisions, on social security disability and SSI cases.

What's it like being a disability examiner? I have no trouble at all in stating, emphatically, that the job truly sucks. It really does. Not the reading of medical records, of course. Nor the decision-making process that's involved in determining disability claims.

What sucked was this: seeing how slanted the social security disability system really is against claimants who file for benefits.

From my vantage point as an examiner, here are a couple of things I noticed (and, yes, I suppose you could say these are disability secrets since it's somewhat difficult to ever find an examiner willing to say these things)----

1. Disability examiners really aren't qualified to render decisions on disability claims. Why? They receive inadequate training. The training they do receive simply allows them to minimally digest the medical records that land on their desks but is not enough to allow them any appreciable insight regarding most medical impairments. And, consequently, their ability to rate the functional limitations of most claimants is, well, in my opinion, not really there. Also, disability examiners all too often tend to be younger individuals just out of college. People in those age brackets, by and large, have not yet had to endure a medical impairment of any kind (I'm not saying everyone, but the majority have not). Never having felt the pain, fatigue, nausea, insert-any-major-symptom-here of a disabling or potentially disabling impairment, how can they even relate, superficially, to the allegations presented on a disability claim. My answer is that, for the most part, they can't. How do you fix all of this? A couple of ways. A. Pay examiners more (a sad but truthful reality is that you often get better workers if you can pay more) and B. provide better training for examiners.

2. Disability unit supervisors are all too often NOT concerned with making good decisions on social security disability and SSI claims. Let me repeat that. Disability Unit superisors are all too often NOT CONCERNED WITH MAKING GOOD DECISIONS ON SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY AND SSI CLAIMS. Instead, they are too often completely and totally concerned with making decisions on disability claims that are GOOD FOR THEM.

What do I mean by this? This is what I mean. All decisions made by disability examiners are subject to being reviewed by quality control units. And the decisions that tend to come back with red marks are cases that have been approved by disability examiners. These are called "returns". Disability unit supervisors, who tend to be anal-retentive lifetime government job types, hate "returns" because they think that returns make them look bad. And, honestly, they probably do since DDS upper management (disability determination services, the name applied to the majority of state disability processing agencies) equates the number of returns received by an agency as equivalent to "black eyes" versus "feathers in
their caps" (borrowing from Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, there).

The outcome? It's not hard to guess. Disability unit supervisors ACTIVELY SUPPRESS the number of approvals made in their units. And it should not surprise anyone that they do. It's only human nature to cover your ass. And disability unit supervisors, a.k.a. anal-retentive lifetime government job types, are very good at doing that. Unfortunately, the trickle down effect of this is that MANY DISABILITY CLAIMANTS ARE DENIED FOR DISABILITY WHEN THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN APPROVED...but weren't simply because too many disability unit supervisors were more concerned with their unit's stats versus making good decisions for disability claimants.

In essence, this is why I started **. To discuss matters like this and to provide information from the perspective of someone who actually processed social security disability and SSI claims. And I later started this disability blog because blogging is a bit more informal (it is blogging after all) and I feel freer to use words and phrases such as "anal-retentive lifetime government job types" and "this sucks". These are phrases that, in some instances, are much more descriptive, effective, and, yes, more satisfying to use.

Is there a real use and need for this kind of information? Considering the fact that hundreds of thousands of disability claims are backlogged with SSA, and that many claimants are being unnecessarily forced to go down the financial drainpipe, I would say definitely yes. In fact, since I started "**" and "My Disability Blog", I've had tons of people copying my webpages which are federally copyrighted with the library of congress. For the most part, this has been done by individual disability lawyers and law firms that are probably all violating their state bar association's code of ethics (I'll be getting to them soon enough). However, this has also been done, interestingly enough, by a number of people hailing from far away lands like India, Russia, and California, who don't know a thing about the U.S. disability claim system and do a huge disservice to claimants by rewriting the work of others and, in the process, making the "borrowed" information (i.e. copyright infringement) nearly incomprehensible. To use just one example---the U.S. supreme court does not come into play in the social security disability appeal system, no matter how much one particular re-writer from India seems to think it does).

But, that's another story and that's what lawyers are for.

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog

Disability in the Various States:

Texas Disability
California Disability
Tennessee Disability
Ohio Disability