Do Social Security Disability SSI Examiners have medical training?

No, they do not. Disability examiners, in most states, are simply individuals who have a certain minimal amount of education that pre-qualifies them for consideration for hiring. Typically, in most states (each state has it own disability determination services agency, or DDS, which processes case decisions for the social security administration), the minimum requirement is that they possess bachelor's degree. However, the bachelor's can be in any area.

If disability examiners do not have medical training, how can be they be expected to make decisions on disability claims? Examiners go through several months of training (in North Carolina, training was typically 12-14 weeks) which includes medical terminology and concepts, medical record shorthand, and, most importantly, how the social security administration defines "disability" and how it evaluates medical record evidence.

In addition to this training, disability examiners are supported by a unit supervisor who usually has several years of case processing experience, an assistant unit supervisor, and, most importantly, by a unit medical consultant (an M.D. physician) and a Ph.D.-level psychologist. These individuals "consult" with the examiner before a final decision is made on a claim. They also help the disability examiner to understand key parts of the medical evidence since disability examiners have no medical training per se.

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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