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 the SSA, it is the SSA which makes the final decision to accept or reject claims for 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of the physicians who conduct consultative examinations if claimant-supplied information proves to be inadequate or outdated.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 education.
The disability examiner considers the information provided in light of the disability listing for your specific medical condition in the SSA’s “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 does not allow you to achieve any type of substantial gainful activity in spite of your medical condition.
If the disability examiner determines that you are eligible to receive 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/psychologist (if the claim is made for a mental disability). While some qualified 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. The testimony of friends and family describing how well you function as you go about your daily activities, for example, is information that is also considered. 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 disability benefits.