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

How Does A Social Security Disability Examiner Determine a Personís Functional Limitations?

Social Security Disability examiners must make a medical determination that involves ascertaining an individualís currently level of physical and/or mental functioning. Since disability claims are largely determined on the basis of what a person is no longer capable of doing (i.e. work activity), this really means determining the individual's functional limitations.

Functional limitations, from the standpoint of the Social Security Administration, may be exertional, such as the ability or inability to sit, stand, lift, or carry. They may also be non-exertional and involve the degree to which a person can, or cannot, reach, bend, hear, see, smell, concentrate, remember, interact with other individuals in a work setting, etc.

Determining a claimant's functional limitations is crucial to the outcome of a disability case because if a case is not approved on the basis of a Social Security Disability listing (the majority of cases are not), then the only means of approving a disability claim will be to determine that the claimant has funtional limitations that:

A) rule out their ability to do their past work and

B) contribute to an overall medical-vocational profile that makes it impossible for the individual to switch to some type of other work.

How does a disability examiner determine a claimant's functional limitations?

Disability examiners begin the process by requesting medical treatment records from all the medical sources provided by the person at their disability interview (conducted by a CR, or claims representative, at a Social Security office).

When filing for disability, claimants do not have to provide their actual medical records themselves (though it is possible for a claimant to personally deliver their medical records at the time of application--which can have the effect of speeding up the disability case) just the names of their treating medical sources, i.e. the various clinics, hospitals, and doctor's offices where they have received treatment.

This is because medical records are paid for by the state disability agency that makes disability claim decisions for the social security administration. This agency is known in most states as DDS, or disability determination services.

It is at DDS that a person's case is assigned to a disability examiner. Typically, the very first action performed on a case will be for the examiner to request the claimant's medical records.

Note: This is why it is crucial for a claimant to supply a detailed list of their medical treatment sources, to enable the examiner to obtain the records quickly but also to ensure that the examiner actually can obtain the records (correct names and addresses of treatment sources is vital).

The examiner will need to obtain current medical records to document that the claimant is presently disabled, but will also need to obtain older medical records to verify the claimant's onset date which can impact how much the claimant may receive in disability back pay.

Once the disability examiner reviews the disability claim file, they can determine if there seems to be enough medical information to make their disability determination.

Note: Medical records must include medical records that are not more than ninety days old in order for the disability examiner to make a decision.

Not only does the disability examiner have to get medical information about the state of an individualís health, they have to get information about how the personís ability to perform routine activities of daily living (including work activity) is affected by their disabling condition or conditions.

They get this kind of information from questionnaires provided to the disability applicant and their third party contact person (this person is provided by the applicant at the time of application), or through phone contact with the disability applicant and/or their third party person. They may even contact past employers to garner information about how an individualís impairment affected their work performance.

For instance, did the disabled individualís employer give them special considerations that helped them keep their employment (i.e. rest periods, more time off, less expectation with regard to production, etc). Or did their employer have to terminate their employment because of the limitations their disability imposed upon them.

There are many ways a disability examiner can determine an individualís state of health and their residual functional capacity. If the disability examiner determines that their residual functional capacity is so restrictive that is not only prevents the performance of any of the personís past work but also rules out the ability to perform any other type of work, the person may be approved to receive disability benefits from Social Security.

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:

Denied Social Security Disability Appeal
Getting Disability and Trying to work
How many times can I appeal my Social Security Disability or SSI?
How Does A Social Security Disability Examiner Determine a Personís Functional Limitations?
How does Social Security determine if I am disabled or not?
How are medical records and work history used to determine a Social Security Disability claim?
How will Social Security Determine if you get Disability Benefits?
If I die on Social Security Disability, will my wife receive anything?
How much will it cost to hire a disability attorney in Pennsylvania?
Why does it take so long to get a decision on a disability case in Pennsylvania?

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.