Only staff doctors in Social Security Disability Determination Services offices can confirm disability for Social Security benefits. Although Disability Determination Services doctors obtain medical information from an applicant's private doctor, the private doctor has no decision-making authority in the determination of disability.
When an individual applies for Social Security disability benefits, Social Security first determines if the applicant meets the earnings requirement to collect benefits. Next, the person applies online, by phone or in person by filling out standard forms and providing information on the nature of the disability, doctors and medical facilities visited, medication, laboratory and test results, and the nature of the applicant's employment before becoming disabled. After the application is evaluated to be sure the applicant meets basic disability benefit requirements, it is passed on to the local Disability Determination Services office.
At the Disability Determination Services office, doctors and other disability specialists go over information supplied by clinics and hospitals where the applicant was treated. They ask the applicant's private physician questions about what the disability is, when it started, results of medical tests, treatment given, and how the disability impairs or prevents work performance and other activities such as sitting, walking, lifting and carrying. If the medical information is insufficient, the applicant may need to undergo a special consultant examination. Although Disability Determination Services usually has the applicant's primary health care provider perform the special examination, the office may rely on an independent source of expertise.