Social Security doctors, part of a screwed up system?

In a recent post I defined just what a Social Security Disability doctor is and pointed out the fact that the doctor who conducts independent consultative medical examinations for the social security administration is not the same doctor as the one who actually works in a case processing unit at DDS (disability determination services, where SSD and SSI disability claims get decided at the disability application and disability reconsideration appeal levels).

In this post, I'm going to describe some of the DDS/social security doctors I've worked with in the past. This is not to be mean, but I thought it would be helpful to those who are interested in how the disability system works to get an idea of what the doctors who help decide disability claims are like, at least in certain regards. Of course, I can't list real names or give out any identifying information. So I will refer to these doctors by alphabetical letter.

Doctor A - Considered by the entire agency to be an expert on visual impairment cases. Practically all examiners were referred by either their unit supervisors or by the doctors attached to their processing unit to this one doctor whenever the case involved an eye impairment (impaired visual acuity, reduced peripheral fields, macular degeneration, low vision, blindness, etc). This doctor, however, was not an opthalmologist and, in private practice, had never worked with eye conditions.

Doctor B - A fairly old doctor, liked by everyone. He was routinely visited by examiners from all over the agency. Was it because he possessed a certain expertise lacked by the others, and so was highly in demand? No. He simply had the reputation of signing anything that was put in front of him. Why would this matter (newspaper journalists who want to get a peek into how screwed up the Social Security Disability and SSI disability system is should really read these next few lines)? Because when examiners were given RFC (residual functional capacity) assessments by their own unit doctors that either they or their supervisors did not like...they went "doctor shopping". And what better doctor to go to than one who never read any of the records but simply signed whatever you gave him so he could back to reading his newspaper.

Doctor C- Another doctor who was also visited by examiners from all over the agency. He also would sign nearly anything he was given and, like Doctor B, would not read the medical records attached to the claimant's files. How was he different from Doctor B? Instead of reading the newspaper all day, he slept in his office. I think he was in his late 80's. As an incidental detail, his eyesight was so bad that he routinely bashed his car into the sign marking his specific parking spot.

Doctor D - Considered the "heart expert" by much of the agency. He had never worked as a cardiologist.

Doctor E - A fairly young doctor (in his forties) who was once an orthopedic surgeon. Why would a young surgeon give up a promising and lucrative future to work at a state agency never treating anyone but simply reading medical records all day long? Good question. No one really knew the answer. All agreed, however, that they would never accept medical treatment from him.

Well, there it is. Just a brief snapshot of the doctors who work at DDS, the agency where decisions on disability claims are made.

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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