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Public Session: State Agencies’ Role in Social Security Disability Determinations

September 23, 2021

On Thursday, September 23, the Board hosted a morning and afternoon public session on state agencies’ role in Social Security disability determinations.

During the morning session, two former Social Security executives, Art Spencer and Melissa Spencer, briefed the Board on the regulations governing Social Security and state Disability Determination Services’ roles in the disability determination process.

During the afternoon session, DDS Directors—representing agencies of varying sizes and organizational structures, and states with different demographic and socioeconomic characteristics—described the unique challenges they face managing disability determinations in their states.

State Agencies’ Role in Social Security Disability Determinations

Key Documents

Agenda and Participants

September 23, 2021, 10 – 11:30 am & 1:15 – 3:15 pm

10 am Disability Determination Administrative Regulations

The Social Security disability evaluation process involves shared responsibility between SSA and state Disability Determination Services (DDS) agencies. Two former SSA executives will discuss the regulations outlining the roles and responsibilities of SSA and the stage agencies.

Art Spencer, former Associate Commissioner, Office of Disability Programs, SSA

Melissa Spencer, former Deputy Associate Commissioner, Office of Disability Policy, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, SSA

11:30 am Break

1:15 pm DDS Directors in Discussion 

Four DDS Directors—representing state agencies of varying sizes and organizational structures and serving populations with different demographic and socioeconomic characteristics—will discuss current challenges in their states and in other state agencies across the country. They will recount their experiences during COVID and discuss topics, such as, claim development, including medical evidence and consultative examinations, as well as workload management, systems technology, and inter-agency communications with SSA.

Leon Scales, President, National Council of Disability Determination Directors (NCDDD); Director, Virginia DDS

Jacki Russell, Incoming President, NCDDD; Director, North Carolina DDS

Ian Harlow, Board Member, NCDDD; Director, Pennsylvania DDS

Mary Wolfe, Member, NCDDD; Administrator, Texas DDS

Previous Board Work

July 2021 Roundtable on Medical Evidence Collection

On July 29, 2021 the Board held a roundtable on Social Security’s medical evidence collection. The roundtable covered an introduction to the process and state approaches to collecting evidence.

October 2020 Summary of Disability Process Improvement Roundtables

In 2018, the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee requested that the Board recommend possible improvements to the disability determination process at the initial and reconsideration stages. A literature review of possible process improvements informed the development of five public roundtables. After, staff authored a summary that captures views and ideas raised by subject matter experts.