The Social Security Administration has announced changes to its disability determination process designed to shorten decision times and pay benefits to people who are obviously disabled much earlier in the process.

The new disability process provides for:

  • A quick disability determination process for those who are obviously disabled. Favorable decisions would be made in such cases within 20 days after the claim is received by the state disability determination agency.
  • A new Medical-Vocational Expert System (MVES) to enhance the expertise needed to make accurate and timely decisions. The MVES will be composed of a Medical-Vocational Expert Unit and a national network of medical, psychological and vocational experts who meet qualification standards established by the Commissioner.
  • A new position — the Federal Reviewing Official — that will review state agency determinations upon the request of the claimant. This will eliminate the reconsideration step of the current appeals process.
  • Retention of the right to request a de novo hearing and decision from an Administrative Law Judge if the claimant disagrees with the decision of the Federal Reviewing Official.
  • Closing the record after the Administrative Law Judge issues a decision, with provision for certain good cause exceptions to this rule.
  • A new body — the Decision Review Board — to review and correct decisional errors and ensure consistent adjudication at all levels of the disability determination process. The current Appeals Council will be phased out gradually.

Social Security plans to phase in the new process on a region-by-region basis beginning with the Boston Region this summer. The Boston Region is comprised of the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.