Social Security Disability Resource Center

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Requirements | How long it takes | Back Pay
Mental Disability | What is a disability? | Tips
SSI Benefits | How to Win | Disability Awards
Hearings | Appeals | List of Disabling Conditions

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.

  • What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

  • What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

  • Which conditions will social security recognize as a disability?

  • Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

  • SSDRC Homepage:

    Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center

    The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work

    Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

    Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    More Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    Common Questions about Social Security Disability and SSI

    Winning Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    The SSI Disability Benefits Program

    Medical exams for disability claims

    Applying for Disability in various states

    Social Security Disability SSI and Doctors - Yours and Theirs

    Social Security Disability and SSI Claim Reviews

    Social Security Disability SSI System and Benefits for Children

    Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative

    What you should know about Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

    Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney

    Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits

    FAQ on Disability Claim Representation

    Disability hearings before Judges

    Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers

    Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits

    Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability

    Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits for Children

    Disability Benefits through Social Security

    Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records

    Filing your claim for disability benefits

    Eligibility for receiving disability benefits

    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

    Resources on this site

    Social Security Disability, SSI Terms and Definitions

    Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

    For Individuals living in North Carolina

    Applying for Disability in North Carolina

    North Carolina Disability Lawyer

    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.

    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