When you file a Social Security disability application, your claim is investigated by the Office of Disability Determination Services, commonly called DDS. This is a state agency which is funded by the United States Federal Government to participate with the the Social Security Administration in evaluating disability claims. Applications for disability benefits filed at local Social Security field offices are sent to the state DDS, where the applications are investigated and then returned to the originating SSA field office to finish processing either an approval or denial of the claim. The state DDS also participates in reconsideration of denied claims where a request has been filed.
We previously posted a blog relating to the backlogs in Virginia’s Office of Disability Determination Services. In that blog, we discussed the government’s recognition that the combination of budget cuts, sequestration, last year’s government shutdown and hiring freezes have all led to severe delays in processing disability applications, requests for reconsideration and hearings.
North Carolina has similar challenges. National and local Social Security Disability claims statistics currently show that pending requests for reconsideration are down 5.5% nationally from a year ago,but they are actually up 49.4% in North Carolina.North Carolina has gone from 7,044 reconsideration to 10,554 in the past year. Initial claims have gone from 25,694 to 26,424.
There is another factor which is causing the North Carolina DDS to struggle with its timely processing of applications and requests for reconsideration. Continuing Disability Reviews, also known as CDR’s are the culprit. The Social Security Administration periodically reviews claimants who are receiving Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for continuing eligibility. Continuing Disability Reviewsare mandated by Congress for the Social Security Administration. These evaluations require significant DDS staff resources.
For the first 9 months of this current fiscal year, the North Carolina DDS received 48% more CDR’s than in the first 9 months of last fiscal year. The number of pending CDRs at the North Carolina DDS is up 141.5%.
Monitoring disability programs for continuing eligibility of benefit recipients is an appropriate activity to which resources should be allocated. We question, however, whether Continuing Disability Reviews should take priority over reviewing and approving the claims of North Carolinian’s who have purchased Social Security disability insurance and are in financial distress because of job loss due to disability. Likewise, those who are disabled and have no income or resources with which to decently live need help now, not later.
We urge you to contact your Senators and your local Congressman to let them know about your dissatisfaction with these extreme delays that you or your loved one are experiencing in the processing of your Social Security Disability benefit applications.