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DISABILITY DETERMINATIONS[234]

Sec221[42 U.S.C. 421] (a)(1) In the case of any individual, the determination of whether or not he is under a disability (as defined in section 216(i) or 223(d)) and of the day such disability began, and the determination of the day on which such disability ceases, shall be made by a State agency, notwithstanding any other provision of law, in any State that notifies the Commissioner of Social Security in writing that it wishes to make such disability determinations commencing with such month as the Commissioner of Social Security and the State agree upon, but only if (A) the Commissioner of Social Security has not found, under subsection (b)(1), that the State agency has substantially failed to make disability determinations in accordance with the applicable provisions of this section or rules issued thereunder, and (B) the State has not notified the Commissioner of Social Security, under subsection (b)(2), that it does not wish to make such determinations. If the Commissioner of Social Security once makes the finding described in clause (A) of the preceding sentence, or the State gives the notice referred to in clause (B) of such sentence, the Commissioner of Social Security may thereafter determine whether (and, if so, beginning with which month and under what conditions) the State may again make disability determinations under this paragraph.

(2) The disability determinations described in paragraph (1) made by a State agency shall be made in accordance with the pertinent provisions of this title and the standards and criteria contained in regulations or other written guidelines of the Commissioner of Social Security pertaining to matters such as disability determinations, the class or classes of individuals with respect to which a State may make disability determinations (if it does not wish to do so with respect to all individuals in the State), and the conditions under which it may choose not to make all such determinations. In addition, the Commissioner of Social Security shall promulgate regulations specifying, in such detail as the Commissioner deems appropriate, performance standards and administrative requirements and procedures to be followed in performing the disability determination function in order to assure effective and uniform administration of the disability insurance program throughout the United States. The regulations may, for example, specify matters such as—

(A) the administrative structure and the relationship between various units of the State agency responsible for disability determinations,

(B) the physical location of and relationship among agency staff units, and other individuals or organizations performing tasks for the State agency, and standards for the availability to applicants and beneficiaries of facilities for making disability determinations,

(C) State agency performance criteria, including the rate of accuracy of decisions, the time periods within which determinations must be made, the procedures for and the scope of review by the Commissioner of Social Security, and, as the Commissioner finds appropriate, by the State, of its performance in individual cases and in classes of cases, and rules governing access of appropriate Federal officials to State offices and to State records relating to its administration of the disability determination function,

(D) fiscal control procedures that the State agency may be required to adopt, and

(E) the submission of reports and other data, in such form and at such time as the Commissioner of Social Security may require, concerning the State agency’s activities relating to the disability determination.

Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize the Commissioner of Social Security to take any action except pursuant to law or to regulations promulgated pursuant to law.

(b)(1) If the Commissioner of Social Security finds, after notice and opportunity for a hearing, that a State agency is substantially failing to make disability determinations in a manner consistent with the Commissioner’s regulations and other written guidelines, the Commissioner of Social Security shall, not earlier than 180 days following the Commissioner’s finding, and after the Commissioner has complied with the requirements of paragraph (3), make the disability determinations referred to in subsection (a)(1).

(2) If a State, having notified the Commissioner of Social Security of its intent to make disability determinations under subsection (a)(1), no longer wishes to make such determinations, it shall notify the Commissioner of Social Security in writing of that fact, and, if an agency of the State is making disability determinations at the time such notice is given, it shall continue to do so for not less than 180 days, or (if later) until the Commissioner of Social Security has complied with the requirements of paragraph (3). Thereafter, the Commissioner of Social Security shall make the disability determinations referred to in subsection (a)(1).

(3)(A) The Commissioner of Social Security shall develop and initiate all appropriate procedures to implement a plan with respect to any partial or complete assumption by the Commissioner of Social Security of the disability determination function from a State agency, as provided in this section, under which employees of the affected State agency who are capable of performing duties in the disability determination process for the Commissioner of Social Security shall, notwithstanding any other provision of law, have a preference over any other individual in filling an appropriate employment position with the Commissioner of Social Security (subject to any system established by the Commissioner of Social Security for determining hiring priority among such employees of the State agency) unless any such employee is the administrator, the deputy administrator, or assistant administrator (or his equivalent) of the State agency, in which case the Commissioner of Social Security may accord such priority to such employee.

(B) The Commissioner of Social Security shall not make such assumption of the disability determination function until such time as the Secretary of Labor determines that, with respect to employees of such State agency who will be displaced from their employment on account of such assumption by the Commissioner of Social Security and who will not be hired by the Commissioner of Social Security to perform duties in the disability determination process, the State has made fair and equitable arrangements to protect the interests of employees so displaced. Such protective arrangements shall include only those provisions which are provided under all applicable Federal, State and local statutes including, but not limited to, (i) the preservation of rights, privileges, and benefits (including continuation of pension rights and benefits) under existing collective-bargaining agreements; (ii) the continuation of collective-bargaining rights; (iii) the assignment of affected employees to other jobs or to retraining programs; (iv) the protection of individual employees against a worsening of their positions with respect to their employment; (v) the protection of health benefits and other fringe benefits; and (vi) the provision of severance pay, as may be necessary.

(c)(1) The Commissioner of Social Security may on the Commissioner’s own motion or as required under paragraphs (2) and (3) review a determination, made by a State agency under this section, that an individual is or is not under a disability (as defined in section 216(i) or 223(d)) and, as a result of such review, may modify such agency’s determination and determine that such individual either is or is not under a disability (as so defined) or that such individual’s disability began on a day earlier or later than that determined by such agency, or that such disability ceased on a day earlier or later than that determined by such agency. A review by the Commissioner of Social Security on the Commissioner’s own motion of a State agency determination under this paragraph may be made before or after any action is taken to implement such determination.

(2) The Commissioner of Social Security (in accordance with paragraph (3)) shall review determinations, made by State agencies pursuant to this section, that individuals are under disabilities (as defined in section 216(i) or 223(d)). Any review by the Commissioner of Social Security of a State agency determination under this paragraph shall be made before any action is taken to implement such determination.

(3)(A) In carrying out the provisions of paragraph (2) with respect to the review of determinations made by State agencies pursuant to this section that individuals are under disabilities (as defined in section 216(i) or 223(d)), the Commissioner of Social Security shall review—

(i) at least 50 percent of all such determinations made by State agencies on applications for benefits under this title, and

(ii) other determinations made by State agencies pursuant to this section to the extent necessary to assure a high level of accuracy in such other determinations.

(B) In conducting reviews pursuant to subparagraph (A), the Commissioner of Social Security shall, to the extent feasible, select for review those determinations which the Commissioner of Social Security identifies as being the most likely to be incorrect.

(C) Not later than April 1, 1992, and annually thereafter, the Commissioner of Social Security shall submit to the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Finance of the Senate a written report setting forth the number of reviews conducted under subparagraph (A)(ii) during the preceding fiscal year and the findings of the Commissioner of Social Security based on such reviews of the accuracy of the determinations made by State agencies pursuant to this section.

(d) Any individual dissatisfied with any determination under subsection (a), (b), (c), or (g) shall be entitled to a hearing thereon by the Commissioner of Social Security to the same extent as is provided in section 205(b) with respect to decisions of the Commissioner of Social Security, and to judicial review of the Commissioner’s final decision after such hearing as is provided in section 205(g).

(e) Each State which is making disability determinations under subsection (a)(1) shall be entitled to receive from the Trust Funds, in advance or by way of reimbursement, as determined by the Commissioner of Social Security, the cost to the State of making disability determinations under subsection (a)(1). The Commissioner of Social Security shall from time to time certify such amount as is necessary for this purpose to the Managing Trustee, reduced or increased, as the case may be, by any sum (for which adjustment hereunder has not previously been made) by which the amount certified for any prior period was greater or less than the amount which should have been paid to the State under this subsection for such period; and the Managing Trustee, prior to audit or settlement by the General Accounting Office[235], shall make payment from the Trust Funds at the time or times fixed by the Commissioner of Social Security, in accordance with such certification. Appropriate adjustments between the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund with respect to the payments made under this subsection shall be made in accordance with paragraph (1) of subsection (g) of section 201 (but taking into account any refunds under subsection (f) of this section) to insure that the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund is charged with all expenses incurred which are attributable to the administration of section 223 and the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund is charged with all other expenses.

(f) All money paid to a State under this section shall be used solely for the purposes for which it is paid; and any money so paid which is not used for such purposes shall be returned to the Treasury of the United States for deposit in the Trust Funds.

(g) In the case of individuals in a State which does not undertake to perform disability determinations under subsection (a)(1), or which has been found by the Commissioner of Social Security to have substantially failed to make disability determinations in a manner consistent with the Commissioner’s regulations and guidelines, in the case of individuals outside the United States, and in the case of any class or classes of individuals for whom no State undertakes to make disability determinations, the determinations referred to in subsection (a) shall be made by the Commissioner of Social Security in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Commissioner.

(h) An initial determination under subsection (a), (c), (g), or (i) that an individual is not under a disability, in any case where there is evidence which indicates the existence of a mental impairment, shall be made only if the Commissioner of Social Security has made every reasonable effort to ensure that a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist has completed the medical portion of the case review and any applicable residual functional capacity assessment.

(i)(1) In any case where an individual is or has been determined to be under a disability, the case shall be reviewed by the applicable State agency or the Commissioner of Social Security (as may be appropriate), for purposes of continuing eligibility, at least once every 3 years, subject to paragraph (2); except that where a finding has been made that such disability is permanent, such reviews shall be made at such times as the Commissioner of Social Security determines to be appropriate. Reviews of cases under the preceding sentence shall be in addition to, and shall not be considered as a substitute for, any other reviews which are required or provided for under or in the administration of this title.

(2) The requirement of paragraph (1) that cases be reviewed at least every 3 years shall not apply to the extent that the Commissioner of Social Security determines, on a State-by-State basis, that such requirement should be waived to insure that only the appropriate number of such cases are reviewed. The Commissioner of Social Security shall determine the appropriate number of cases to be reviewed in each State after consultation with the State agency performing such reviews, based upon the backlog of pending reviews, the projected number of new applications for disability insurance benefits, and the current and projected staffing levels of the State agency, but the Commissioner of Social Security shall provide for a waiver of such requirement only in the case of a State which makes a good faith effort to meet proper staffing requirements for the State agency and to process case reviews in a timely fashion. The Commissioner of Social Security shall report annually to the Committee on Finance of the Senate and the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives with respect to the determinations made by the Commissioner of Social Security under the preceding sentence.

(3) The Commissioner of Social Security shall report annually to the Committee on Finance of the Senate and the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives with respect to the number of reviews of continuing disability carried out under paragraph (1), the number of such reviews which result in an initial termination of benefits, the number of requests for reconsideration of such initial termination or for a hearing with respect to such termination under subsection (d), or both, and the number of such initial terminations which are overturned as the result of a reconsideration or hearing.

(4) In any case in which the Commissioner of Social Security initiates a review under this subsection of the case of an individual who has been determined to be under a disability, the Commissioner of Social Security shall notify such individual of the nature of the review to be carried out, the possibility that such review could result in the termination of benefits, and the right of the individual to provide medical evidence with respect to such review.

(5) For suspension of reviews under this subsection in the case of an individual using a ticket to work and self-sufficiency, see section 1148(i).

(j) The Commissioner of Social Security shall prescribe regulations which set forth, in detail—

(1) the standards to be utilized by State disability determination services and Federal personnel in determining when a consultative examination should be obtained in connection with disability determinations;

(2) standards for the type of referral to be made; and

(3) procedures by which the Commissioner of Social Security will monitor both the referral processes used and the product of professionals to whom cases are referred.

Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to preclude the issuance, in accordance with section 553(b)(A) of title 5, United States Code, of interpretive rules, general statements of policy, and rules of agency organization relating to consultative examinations if such rules and statements are consistent with such regulations.

(k)(1) The Commissioner of Social Security shall establish by regulation uniform standards which shall be applied at all levels of determination, review, and adjudication in determining whether individuals are under disabilities as defined in section 216(i) or 223(d).

(2) Regulations promulgated under paragraph (1) shall be subject to the rulemaking procedures established under section 553 of title 5, United States Code[236].

(l)(1) In any case where an individual who is applying for or receiving benefits under this title on the basis of disability by reason of blindness is entitled to receive notice from the Commissioner of Social Security of any decision or determination made or other action taken or proposed to be taken with respect to his or her rights under this title, such individual shall at his or her election be entitled either (A) to receive a supplementary notice of such decision, determination, or action, by telephone, within 5 working days after the initial notice is mailed, (B) to receive the initial notice in the form of a certified letter, or (C) to receive notification by some alternative procedure established by the Commissioner of Social Security and agreed to by the individual.

(2) The election under paragraph (1) may be made at any time, but an opportunity to make such an election shall in any event be given, to every individual who is an applicant for benefits under this title on the basis of disability by reason of blindness, at the time of his or her application. Such an election, once made by an individual, shall apply with respect to all notices of decisions, determinations, and actions which such individual may thereafter be entitled to receive under this title until such time as it is revoked or changed.

(m)(1) In any case where an individual entitled to disability insurance benefits under section 223 or to monthly insurance benefits under section 202 based on such individual’s disability (as defined in section 223(d)) has received such benefits for at least 24 months—

(A) no continuing disability review conducted by the Commissioner may be scheduled for the individual solely as a result of the individual’s work activity;

(B) no work activity engaged in by the individual may be used as evidence that the individual is no longer disabled; and

(C) no cessation of work activity by the individual may give rise to a presumption that the individual is unable to engage in work.

(2) An individual to which paragraph (1) applies shall continue to be subject to—

(A) continuing disability reviews on a regularly scheduled basis that is not triggered by work; and

(B) termination of benefits under this title in the event that the individual has earnings that exceed the level of earnings established by the Commissioner to represent substantial gainful activity.


[234]  See Vol. II, P.L. 108-203, §413, with respect to the reinstatement of reporting requirements under §221(c)(3)(C) and (i)(3).

[235]  P.L. 108-271, §8(b), provided that “Any reference to the General Accounting Office in any law, rule, regulation, certificate, directive, instruction, or other official paper in force on the date of enactment [July 7, 2004] of this Act shall be considered to refer and apply to the Government Accountability Office.”rce on July 7, 2004, shall be considered to refer and apply to the Government Accountability Office.”

[236]  See Vol. II, 5 U.S.C. 553.