How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

Who is The Doctor for a Social Security Disability Claim or SSI Case?

Many people who file for disability are confused about “Social Security doctors.” They assume that Social Security has physicians on its payroll who examine applicants and, perhaps, work with them to find reasons to deny the application.

This is not entirely true. Social Security does have physicians whom it employs to help make decisions on claims. These physicians are indeed employees of the SSA, and are assigned to a particular unit at the state disability determination services (DDS) agency.

Disability examiners at DDS review all initial applications and first appeals based on both physical and mental conditions for the SSA upon reviewing the applicants’ medical records. However, after the disability examiner has made a decision, the decision is then reviewed by the unit doctor.

These SSA-employed physicians review claims based on physical impairments, while a psychological consultant (usually a licensed psychologist versus a psychiatrist) reviews examiners’ decisions regarding claims based on mental conditions such as depression, mania, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.

These physicians and psychologists are Social Security doctors in the true sense, as they are solely in the employment of the Social Security Administration. In addition, the opinions of unit doctors within DDS are given more weight than those of the disability examiners themselves, and often ultimately override the examiners’ decisions.

There is another type of doctor, one which disability applicants may be required to meet with (claimants never meet the doctors that are assigned to the case processing units of disability examiners, just as claimants typically never meet the disability examiners themselves), and this type of doctor is not truly a "Social Security doctor".

In cases in which a disability applicant has no recent (within the past three months) medical documentation to support the claim that he or she is currently disabled, a consultative exam (CE) is typically required by the disability examiner before rendering a decision on a disability claim.

Doctors who perform CEs are independent doctors, in that they have their own private practices, and have only contracted with Social Security to perform exams in disability cases. The idea is to have a non-biased opinion regarding the applicant’s present state of health, though this is somewhat debatable.

Many, many individuals have reported that the “independent” physicians performing these exams are unnecessarily rude, and that the exams are so brief and perfunctory they could not possibly provide a true picture of a disability claimant’s true physical or mental limitations. In fact, the average CE takes about 15 to 20 minutes, which certainly appears to be little more than a mere formality.

Your best bet, if you are considering applying for Social Security Disability, is to establish a relationship with a treating physician who is sympathetic to your bid for disability, and keep regular appointments with him, so that you will have no need to rely on the opinion of Social Security Disability doctors, independent or otherwise.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related pages:

Social Security Disability Appeal Attorney Fees
Can you get disability the first time you apply?
Should I get a lawyer for my disability hearing for SSD or SSI?
When Social Security Disability Sends You To A Doctor, What Kind Is It?
Who is The Doctor for a Social Security Disability Claim or SSI Case?
What should you get from your doctor to file for disability benefits?
Why Will You be Sent to a Social Security Doctor for your disability case?
Will Social Security Grant Disability If I Have Not Been To the Doctor?
If I apply for disability and my doctor says I am disabled, is there a waiting period to receive benefits?
SSA Medical Exam and your own Physician
How Important is the Treating Physician to a Social Security Disability or SSI case?
What are the qualifications for disability in Texas?
How much can I get from Social Security Disability in Texas?
Get a qualified disability attorney, lawyer in Texas

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.