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Do Social Security Disability Judges Read your Medical Records?

This might seem like an odd title for a post but someone in a forum or on another site--I can't recall which--recently wrote that ALJs (administrative law judges, the individuals who conduct disability hearings for social security) not read medical records, nor do social security administration MDs, who, the poster went on to say, also do not perform lab tests. Is this even remotely true?

Well, the "social security administration MDs", as this person phrased it, are actually medical consultants who are assigned to case processing units that are full of disability examiners. The examiners themselves spend the better part of their days reading medical records. And, no, these SSA medical consultants do not perform lab tests. But, then, why would they? Their purpose is not to deliver treatment, nor is it to render a diagnosis. Their purpose, in part, however, is to do something similar to what a disability examiner does, which is read the claimant's medical records and then determine the claimant's relative ability to engage in work activity, either at one of their former jobs or at some type of other work.

Why is there a disability examiner and an MD employed by the social security administration performing similar functions? Because the examiner is the individual who actually takes care of the leg work for the development of a disability claim. The examiner requests the records, does followups when the records fail to arrive, conducts interviews with disability claimants (usually regarding their work activity, medical treatment sources, or their activities of daily living), and considers vocational issues that may influence the case, in addition to medical issues that may influence the residual functional capacity rating a claimant is given.

The Social Security Disability doctor does none of the legwork required to get the actual elements of a case lined up.

However, the medical consultant (or psychological consultant, if the claimant's alleged impairments are of a mental nature) does review the examiner's writeup of the case and performs his or her own rating of the claimant's functional abilities and limitations. And the doctor does this because...he or she is a doctor while the examiner is not.

Disability examiners are not medical professionals. They are trained to evaluate medical record documentation and to consider such documents in the context of the SSA disability process. But, in most instances, the opinion of a disability examiner only becomes valid if the examiner's unit medical consultant signs off on the case, thereby giving it a stamp of approval from a licensed physician.

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

Related pages:

How to file for disability in Indiana
Denied Twice For SSD or SSI Disability, What Do I Do?
Personality Disorder and Filing for Disability
Pain medication and applying for disability
How many disability appeals are won and what are the chances?
What do I need to give Social Security for a disability determination
If your disability claim is approved or denied
Applying for disability with seizures
How to file for disability in Utah
SSD Benefit Requirements and Work Credits
When does SSA, the Social Security Administration, consider disabled
Calling about a Social Security Disability Claim
Help your disability case with a congressional inquiry
Social Security Award letter for SSD, SSI
How Much Income Can you Earn If you draw Social Security Disability?

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 provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

How to check the status of my Social Security disability claim
To qualify for disability, what to prove
Preparation to win a disability hearing
Social Security Disability lawyers FAQ
How Much Income Can you Earn If you draw Social Security Disability?
What does Social Security Disability SSI pay, how much?
Social Security Disability Maximum back pay
Social Security Disability Claims and Medical Exams
What is qualifying for disability benefits based on?
Partial Social Security Disability SSI benefits
Filing for disability and financial help
Getting approved after a Social Security Disability Psychological exam
How long does it take to receive disability benefits after you are approved?
Does Social Security Disability Come With Medicaid Benefits?
Applying for Disability or SSI - How long does it take
Can you work if you get Social Security Disability?
Am I eligible to receive disability benefits?
What medical disabilities, conditions qualify for Disability Benefits?
How to get disability for degenerative disc disease
What mental problems qualify for disability?
Conditions that get approved for disability