Does the Social Security Administration use experts for determining disability?

It depends on what you mean by "experts". For example, the individuals who work to process Social Security Disability and SSI claims at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels are called "disability examiners" while their official title is often specialist I, an examiner who only works on applications, or specialist II, an examiner who works on reconsideration appeals and continuing disability reviews (the type of reviews that are done periodically for people who were previously approved for benefits).

Disability examiners make decisions on cases. However, they are also assisted in this process by medical doctors and psychologists who are part of their case processing units. It basically works in this fashion: the disability examiner gathers the claimant's medical records, evaluates them, and comes to a conclusion as to whether or not the case should be approved. Then the disability examiner consults with his unit's medical consultant (an M.D.) to see if this physician concurs.

In the case of mental impairments, the disability examiner will visit his or her case processing unit's psychological consultant. This individual is usually a Ph.D. level psychologist. And, as with the medical consultant, this individual must also agree with the disability examiner's assessment of the case before a final decision can be made.

Are there other "experts" who work on disability claims? Yes, in fact, there are specific experts that are called by disability judges to provide testimony at hearings. These are known as medical experts and vocational experts.

These individuals, as opposed to the other types of individuals we just mentioned, are not employees of social security. Instead, they are given compensation to show up at hearings and provide expert testimony which can affect the outcome of a case. Hearing experts are another reason why it is wise to be represented at a disability hearing because their testimony can decide the fate of a disability claim.

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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