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

Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on

Here are a few informational tips about how your disability claim will be processed and evaluated, and this comes from my own experience as a disability examiner for the Social Security Administration's DDS, or disability determination services.

Once you file a claim for disability with Social Security, the claim is sent to a state disability agency known as DDS, or disability determination services for a medical disability determination. Once in the agency, it is assigned to a case-processing specialist known as a disability examiner.

Medical Records and Consultative Examinations

The disability examiner reviews the medical sources you provided in your disability application. If the examiner determines that there are no "current medical records" (medical treatment records that are no more than ninety days old), they will contact you to set up a consultative examination or multiple consultative examinations so that they have the current status of your physical and/or mental condition.

A consultative examination is usually a short physical or mental examination performed by a doctor who has been paid by Social Security. Consultative exams, CE for short, are not the best medical information sources, but if there is no other medical information or no current medical information, the examiner has no other choice but to use a consultative examination to give them enough information to make your medical disability decision.

In my opinion, a CE most often does not lead to an approval for disability benefits, unless it is something that involves objective testing such as psychological testing, memory scale testing, or some other medical testing that provides objective measurement. The point I am trying to get to is that, if at all possible, you should try to have some current medical treatment to address your impairments. Medical records from a doctor who is familiar with you will provide a better evaluation of your disabling condition than a doctor who sees you for ten minutes at a CE.

Information about daily activities may affect your claim

In addition to current medical treatment information, your disability examiner needs to have information about your ability to function in daily life to make their disability decision. They may contact you or your third-party contact person (a person you list at the time of filing your disability claim who has an opportunity to observe you performing daily activities such as shopping, cleaning house, mowing the lawn, etc) and ask to what extent you are able to perform normal activities.

Rather than personally contacting you or your third party, the disability examiner can accomplish this by sending out an activities of daily living questionnaire to you to complete and return, and a third party questionnaire to your third-party contact person to complete and return.

These questionnaires are to get an idea of how debilitating your condition really is with respect to the activities you routinely perform each day. You should speak with the person you designated as your third-party contact before the disability examiner contacts them or sends them their third party questionnaire.

Why? Information provided to the examiner about activities of daily living (ADL) is often used to deny SSDI claims and SSI disability claims so you and your third-party person should take the time to answer the questions to the best of your ability. This is one reason why it is very important to give Social Security a third-party person who truly knows about your disabling condition and how it affects you, versus someone you only casually and occasionally interact with.

Residual Functional Capacity and Jobs

The disability examiner uses all of the medical information in conjunction with the questionnaires to get an idea of what your residual functional capacity is. Residual functional capacity is what you are able to do in spite of the limitations of your impairments and it is compared to the information that is obtained regarding your work history, specifically the demands of your past work, as well as the skills that your past jobs required (because your skill levels will be used to answer the question of whether or not you can switch to some type of other work, even if you are unable to return to any of your former jobs).

To make your medical disability decision, the examiner needs information about the jobs that you performed in the past. However, the examiner will be primarily concerned with only the jobs that are deemed to be relevant and which occur in the "relevant period", i.e. the fifteen years prior to filing for disability.

Providing a detailed work history, that includes dates of employment, as well as a comprehensive list of duties performed in your past jobs, will help the examiner determine if you are capable of performing any of your past work, or finding gainful employment in some other kind of other work when considering your residual functional capacity, education, age, and job skills.

The effect of providing inaccurate information

However, if you provide an inaccurate job title, this may cause the examiner to misidentify your job. Even if you provide the right job title, but only provide a short description (under the assumption that the examiner will "automatically" understand what your job entailed), you run the risk of the examiner matching your short description with a job of the same title, but which is not even remotely the same job that you performed. This may cause the examiner to overestimate your skill levels, or underestimate the demands of your past work, both situations that may cause your claim to be denied on the basis of your being able to either A) return to your past work or B) engage in other work.

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:

Has my Disability Claim Been Approved?
Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
Advice to Win Social Security Disability and SSI Benefit Claims
How Quickly Is The Disability Claim Decision Made?
What is the SSI and Social Security Disability Application Wait Time?
How do you get an SSI disability application and Claim started?
Avoiding Mistakes to get your Disability Claim Approved
How to Claim Disability Benefits through Social Security
How to claim disability benefits in North Carolina
Applying for permanent disability with liver disease and a spinal fusion
Getting a Disability Lawyer in California
Will I qualify for disability Benefits in California?
How long does it take to get disability in California?

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.