Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Disability Requirements

Disability Applications

Disability Advice Tips

How long do cases take?

How to win Disability

SSD Mistakes to avoid

Disability for Mental

What if you get denied?

How to file Appeals

Disability through SSA

SSI Disability Benefits

Disability for Children

How do I qualify for it?

Working and Disability

Disability Award Notice

Disability Lawyer Q&A

Disability Conditions List

What is a disability?

Your Medical Evidence

Filing for your Disability

Disability Eligibility

SSD SSI Definitions

Recent Questions

SSDRC Disability Blog

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.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

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?

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

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

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
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?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria