Social Security is ending testing in states where the agency was trying out changes to the disability determination process. The tests included skipping the reconsideration phase of the appeals process and allowing a single decision maker to decide initial disability applications (without the opinion of a doctor).
In January 2019, reconsideration will again be the first stage of appeal in the following five states: California (Los Angeles North and Los Angeles West only), Colorado, New Hampshire, New York, and Louisiana. This applies to residents in these locations who receive an initial denial for SSDI or SSI on or after January 1, 2019.
By June 26, 2020, reconsideration will be the first stage of appeal in the remaining five states: Alabama, Alaska, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania. This will likely apply to residents in these locations who receive an initial denial for SSDI or SSI on or after June 26, 2020. At that point, all 50 states and the District of Columbia will have a national appeal process that includes reconsideration, an appeal hearing, an appeal to the Appeals Council, and then filing a claim in federal court.
In addition, as of October 2018, Social Security phased out the use of "single decision makers" (SDMs) in several states. Now, a medical consultant (doctor or psychologist) who works for Social Security must sign off on all disability determinations, in all states.