How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
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DDS Doctors and the Social Security Disability SSI System in South Carolina

A lot of people get confused on what a "social security doctor" is. The point of this post is not to define this term, but let me do so anyway before I proceed. There are basically three types of doctors as they relate to the processing of a Social Security Disability or SSI claim in South Carolina.

The first type is your own doctor, otherwise known as a treating physician. This doctor, obviously, can be very important to your claim because he or she will supply medical records to the social security administration and may possibly supply, at the time of a hearing, a medical source statement, a.k.a. an RFC (residual functional capacity) form on your behalf (usually your disability representative or disability attorney will attempt to obtain one of these statements for your case).

The second type is a private practice physician who conducts consultative medical exams for the social security administration. This doctor is often referred to as a "social security doctor", but he or she does not work for SSA. This doctor has simply agreed to take CE, or consultative exam, appointments.

A consultative exam, by the way, is usually scheduled when A) a claimant has alleged an impairment on the disability application that they have not been treated for (depression is an excellent example of this), or when B) a claimant has not received treatment for a condition for a certain length of time (usually 90 days, but I've scheduled exams when a claimant's last doctor visit was 60 days back).

Now, the third type of doctor, as it relates to the Social Security Disability and SSI claim system, is the DDS unit medical consultant. I say "unit" because this doctor is actually attached to a processing unit full of disability examiners, a case consultant/assistant unit manager, and a unit manager. This doctor is the only one of the three who could correctly be categorized as the "social security doctor".

What does this doctor do? Pretty much what a disability examiner does. He or she sits in an office all day long reading medical records and deciding what a claimant's residual functional capacity should be, based on the functional indications presented by the medical records. The unit medical consultant does not actually make the decision on an SSD or SSI case...but he does have final say on what the claimant's RFC rating is. So, in a sense, he does make the decision. If you're confused at this point, let me elaborate:

1. The disability examiner gets all the medical records together, reads them, makes notes, and then, at some point, does a writeup. This is sort of "the pre-RFC".

2. Then the examiner takes the writeup and a completed RFC form in to his unit medical consultant. Depending on how busy the doctor is, he either sits there with the doctor and discusses the case, or he leaves the writeup with the doctor.

3. Next, the unit medical consultant will do his own writeup, this time on an actual RFC form. Most of the time, the doctor will agree completely with the examiner's assessment. Sometimes, the doctor won't. Either way, the outcome of the case depends on the doctor's assessment of the claimant's residual functional capacity. And that's reasonable. After all, the doctor is a doctor, and the examiner is not a doctor.

Now that we've gotten that terminology out of the way, we're finally on the actual point of this post. In this post, I simply wanted to make some comments regarding DDS medical consultants (social security doctors) since this subject was lately on my mind. However, due to the amount of material in this post, that will now be part 2, soon to follow.

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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.