About three-quarters of initial claims are rejected annually in Tennessee, creating a backlog of cases. That high rate of rejection, combined with an increase in disability claims in recent years—in part because of the aging baby-boomer population—has created a bottleneck in the system, forcing claimants to wait up to 18 months before their cases are heard.
Given that Tennessee has long been notorious for performing poorly in its role of deciding who should receive the federal benefits, many local attorneys who specialize in such cases say they aren’t surprised. The federal government bestows this responsibility on the states, which operate federally funded offices called Disability Determination Services. Tennessee’s DDS office is located in Nashville and employs about 200 examiners who review disability applications and ultimately approve or deny claims. Critics say that Tennessee’s examiners have consistently been among the lowest paid in the country, and that the state has one of the highest attrition rates among examiners nationwide, suggesting inexperienced employees and frequent turnover might be to blame for the state’s high rate of rejections.
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