The task of a disability examiner is to determine whether or not you are eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits. Disability examiners are not federal employees, but instead work for state agencies called Disability Determination Services (DDS) where all Social Security Disability cases are evaluated. While the DDS office reviews applications and makes recommendations to Social Security, it is the Social Security Administration which makes the final decision to accept or reject claims for Social Security Disability benefits.
The medical determinations made by a Social Security Disability examiner are based on the medical records you supply, additional information you or others may present, and the conclusions of the physicians who conduct consultative examinations if claimant-supplied information proves to be inadequate or outdated. In addition, the disability examiner will weigh your work history and your education.
The disability examiner considers the information thus provided in light of the Social Security Disability listing for your specific disabling medical condition in the SSA’s impairment listing manual entitled Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, also known as the “Blue Book.” The disability examiner will ascertain whether:
- Your affliction meets the criteria for the condition as described in the Blue Book, and
- The condition is severe enough to qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits because your residual functional capacity is not enough to allow you to achieve any type of substantial gainful activity in spite of your medical condition.
If the disability examiner determines that you are qualified to receive Social Security Disability benefits, he or she must also decide the amount of benefits you will receive and how long you will receive those benefits, based on your work history and type of disability.
Most Social Security Disability determinations are made by two people, the disability examiner and a unit consultant. The unit consultant is usually a physician (if the claim is made for a physical disability) or a psychiatrist or psychologist (if the claim is made for a mental disability). While some qualified Social Security Disability examiners will review cases on their own, a case will almost always receive a second review if it involves mental impairments or a difficult vocational situation.
To some extent, the determination by a disability examiner is subjective, as the way the information in a case is interpreted is not often cut and dried. The testimony of friends and family describing how well you function as you go about your daily activities, for example, is information that is considered secondarily in the light of all the other evidence as it is more a matter of opinion than fact. In addition, it is not uncommon to have the recommendation of a disability examiner be overruled by a unit case consultant, unit manager, or medical professional.
Generally speaking, it is wise to consider meeting with a qualified Social Security Disability attorney or representative before submitting anything to a disability examiner to ensure that all appropriate documentation and medical records are included with your application for Social Security Disability benefits. Click here for an opportunity to get a free disability evaluation with an attorney in your state or local area.