What medical background do Social Security Disability examiners have?

As a former disability examiner, I can say this with authority. The answer is None. Disability examiners who issue medical decisions on Social Security Disability and SSI disability cases have zilch medical training.

That begs the question, "What kind of training do disability examiners receive?" Good question. When I was an examiner, the training amounted to six weeks of classroom training on the various body systems and on the basic concepts of disability adjudication. Doesn't sound like a lot, does it?

Does a disability examiner really require true medical knowledge to make medical decisions on disability claims for SSA? I can see it from both sides.

The focus of an examiner's work is identifying the aspects of a claimant's case that indicate whether or not the claimant meets the definition of disability. And that is something a medical doctor off the street would not be able to do, simply because most doctors would have no substantial idea as to how social security adjudicates claims. So, using that reasoning, no, lack of medical training may not be critical to doing the job.

But...it has occurred to me very often that disability examiners would be able to do their jobs better IF they understood more of what they read in a claimant's medical records. It is my firm belief that too much of what a disability examiner reads throughout the course of a day he/she does not truly understand.

At this point, an individual reading this post who is a longtime examiner might have a bad reaction to what I'm saying. But if you are a disability examiner, quickly answer this question --- How many times have you been stuck in your medical consultant's office (these are the doctors that disability examiners work with in order to make decisions on disability cases) and not really understood what they were telling you?

The truth is, if disability examiners had better training, the kind that would allow them to better understand the records they read all day long...they might make better decisions on claims.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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