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

Who handles my case if I apply for Social Security Disability?

Your disability case will be handled by several people during the Social Security Disability process. When you file your disability claim, a Social Security claims representative (CR) completes your Social Security and/or SSI disability application. They get your medical information including your physicians’ names, addresses, phone numbers, your medical treatment dates, the medications you are taking, and the testing you have had.

In addition to medical information, Social Security needs information about the types of work you performed in the fifteen years prior to filing for disability. Social Security uses your work and medical information to complete the necessary disability forms. Once the claims representative at the Social Security Field Office finishes your disability folder, they forward your disability case to a state agency responsible for making Social Security Disability determinations. This is where the actual evaluation of your claim begins.

DDS and the Disability Examiner

When your disability case arrives at the state disability agency (DDS or disability determination services), it is assigned to a disability examiner, a case-processing specialist who has been trained to evaluate medical records, work histories, and consider them in the context of Social Security rules as well as Social Security Regulations.

The disability examiner is responsible for acquiring medical records from the medical sources you provided at your disability interview, scheduling any needed consultative examinations, and making a disability determination on your disability case. This means that your disability case will most likely be handled by state disability agency physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists as well as medical professionals outside the disability agency should your disability case require a consultative examination.

Once the disability examiner gets enough information (and this usually means medical record documentation, though in some cases they will be required to more thoroughly research a claimant's work history), they make a decision on your disability case. Following this decision, you will receive a formal decisional notice in the mail.

Getting denied and filing the first appeal

If your disability case is denied at the initial claim, or disability application level, and you feel you are still disabled, you must file an appeal to continue your disability case. Your first appeal is a reconsideration appeal, more formally known as a Request for Reconsideration.

Reconsideration appeals are sent back to the same state disability agency for a review of your initial disability case decision. The only difference being, another disability examiner makes the decision on your reconsideration. Unfortunately, not many initial disability claim decisions are overturned at the reconsideration appeal. In most states, an even higher percentage of reconsideration requests are denied than disability applications. (see Social Security Disability, SSI Decisions – What Is the Rate of Approval?).

The second appeal - Hearing before an ALJ, Administrative Law Judge

If your reconsideration appeal is denied, you have no choice but to file a request for a disability hearing in order to pursue your claim. Many claimants make the mistake of giving up on their claim following the denial of a disability application or the denial of a reconsideration request. However, this is a distinct mistake since the likelihood of approval increases substantially at an ALJ hearing, particularly for claimants who have representation.

Your request for an administrative Law judge hearing is submitted to the Social Security office where you initially filed your claim. From there, it is transferred to the hearing office, known as the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. The hearing, of course, is handled by an administrative law judge. In principle, the ALJ performs the same function as the disability examiner. The ALJ will review the medical records and the work history. The ALJ will also review the past decisions of the case as well as all the information that was previously created during the application and reconsideration phases.

Unlike the disability examiners who adjudicated the claim at the earlier levels, however, the administrative law judge will not gather medical records or other evidence to support your case. This is because while the judge is a decision-maker, the judge is essentially reviewing the prior decisions on your claim for error. The judge will, of course, review any additional records that are entered into the case, but obtaining these records will be the responsibility of the claimant or the claimant's disability attorney.

The importance of getting evidence gathered before a hearing

An Administrative law judge (or disability examiner, for that matter) will only be able to approve a claim if A) the available medical evidence demonstrates that the claimant has physical and/or mental limitations that render them incapable of working and earning a substantial and gainful income and B) at least some of their medical evidence is recent, meaning not older than 90 days.

While older medical records may be essential for demonstrating the progression of a claimant's illness, or the ways in which it satisfies the criteria of a disability listing, and especially how far back the condition began (for the sake of determining how much back pay the claimant may be owed), the qualifications for disability, as set forth by the Social Security Administration, dictate that a claimant must submit recent evidence.

The issue of needing recent medical evidence presents a problem for cases that are being heard at hearings. Why? Because the elapsed time between the denial of a claim at the reconsideration level and the holding of a disability hearing can be well over a year, meaning that by the time a hearing comes to pass there will be no recent records in the file. Therefore, it is an absolute must that continued evidence gathering must be a principal part of preparing for a disability hearing.

Beyond the disability hearing level

If your disability case is not approved at this level, it may be handled by an Appeals Council review, or even by a Federal Court judge should you chose to pursue your disability claim that far. Most disability applicants, however, begin the disability process again if their disability case is denied at their disability hearing or the Appeal Council review level.

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:

Should you Look at the Disability File that Social Security has on You?
How do I apply for a Social Security Disability widow’s claim?
Who handles my case if I apply for Social Security Disability?
Social Security Disability Application Online
Can I apply for disability online?
Can I Collect Unemployment While I File For Disability Benefits (SSD or SSI)?
What medical conditions can you apply for disability for?
To Apply For SSI or SSD Disability Benefits, Where do I Start?
When You Apply For Disability, write Down Everything That Is Wrong With You
When I Apply For Disability, Should I List My Old Meds From Years Ago?
When I Apply for Disability - Should I apply for Social Security Disability or SSI?
What happens if you are working when you file for disability or work after you apply?
If Social Security Turns Down My Case Can I apply For Disability A Second Time?
How many people get approved for disability from Social Security?
If you apply for disability in in Louisiana
Getting a Disability Lawyer in Louisiana

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.