If you are applying for disability, your Disability Examiner is a very important person in your life. This is the person who makes the Big Decision!
What is a Disability Examiner?
A Disability Examiner is the person who handles your case, collects documentation and helps make the decision. In some states, they are called “Disability Determinations Specialist” or something similar. The office they work at is usually called “Disability Determination Services” or something similar.
Who are these people who make such an important decision about your life and what do they do? Magnolia is a former Disability Examiner who later became disabled herself. She was kind enough to share some tips from the inside: What The Heck is DDS? (A View from Inside)
Do I Have a Disability Examiner?
At some points in your application you will have a disability examiner handling your case. At other times, your application will float around to different offices in different parts of the state and you won’t have an examiner!
💠 Initial Applications – Your application will start at the local office. After about a month, it will be transferred to Disability Determinations office and get assigned to an examiner.
💠 Reconsideration Applications – Your application will be sent to Disability Determinations office and get assigned to a new examiner.
💠 Hearing Appeals – Nope. No disability examiner! Your application will get sent to the judge’s office and the decision will be made there.
💠 Disability Reviews – Yes. After your case is approved, you will be reviewed from time to time. Your review will be sent to Disability Determinations office and get assigned to an examiner.
Are You My Disability Examiner?
After first you apply, you may be contacted by someone from your local Social Security office to go over some details from your application. This is not your disability examiner.
Your does not work at your local office. They work in a different building, often in a different part of the state, sometimes in another state. You have never met them and will never meet them.
Where Is My Disability Examiner?
Once your case is transferred to a Disability Examiner, you may receive more forms by mail with the name and contact information. Or you might not.
When in doubt, you can always call Social Security and ask for the name and contact information for your examiner. (If it has not yet been assigned to anyone, then obviously they will not yet be able to tell you).
Who Else Can I Call?
Many of our readers report that they got wildly inaccurate information by calling the local or national Social Security numbers. If a Disability Examiner is actively handling your case right now, you want to talk directly to that person.
Staying in Touch
It is super helpful to get in touch with your Disability Examiner and make sure they have everything you want them to have. Here’s two great stories and tons of great tips from people that stayed in touch with their Disability Examiner and got approved very quickly:
Calling Your DE
💠 When you call, you can politely thank your examiner for their time and ask if they would be willing to let you know which records they have received and which they are still waiting for.
💠 Before you call, you can try to write down a list of all important documents you hope will be there. This might include records from doctors, emergency rooms, hospitals, clinics, etc. If your examiner is willing, you can ask her to review your list with you over the phone and confirm what is in your file.
💠 If you are in the “request for reconsideration” stage, you can do some of this yourself ahead of time by requesting a copy of your case file on CD. That will show you what was in your file last time a decision was made.
💠 Make sure to ask about any specific documents that are important to you. For example, if you have an important letter or RFC form from your doctor, state the date of the letter and ask if that specific letter is there.
💠 If it has been a while since you first applied, it may be helpful if you can check and confirm dates. Sometimes they will have records from your doctor from six months ago, but nothing current.
Don’t Trust These Words
💠 Some readers report their examiner said “I have everything I need” or “I have all your records” or “I have the records from such-and-such doctor,” and it turned out they only had old records, or they were missing important forms, letters or reports
💠 Be specific. Ask for dates. Ask specifically “Do you have the RFC form filled out by Doctor X on February 3, 2019?”
💠 If your Disability Examiner is missing anything important, offer to help get it for them. Ask how you can help.
💠 Some Disability Examiners will allow you to fax your documents directly. If you have copies, ask if you can send them.
💠 Other Examiners will require that all documents be sent directly from your doctor’s office. You can help this process by making relentless phone calls asking/begging your doctor’s office to fax them in and then checking back with your examiner until everything is there.
💠 Some of our readers report that even though their doctor faxed in the records, they were lost or put in the wrong person’s file. It always helps to double check.
Can’t Reach Your Examiner?
💠 Many of our readers report that disability examiners did not return all (or sometimes any) phone calls. You may need to be persistent.
💠 If you have tried multiple times and you are completely unable to reach your disability examiner, you can try calling your state’s Disability Determination Services office and asking to speak to a supervisor to see if they can answer your questions or assist you. Disability determinations offices may be called something slightly different in different states.
💠 Once again, if your case is at Disability Determinations Services, it’s best to contact this office directly. Do not contact your local Social Security office or the national number. We have many, many reports from readers about getting inaccurate information this way.
💠 If you have a significant difficulty or problem, you can also try contacting your congressperson and asking them to contact the examiner on your behalf. There are staff members in your congressperson’s office who can assist in this way.
💠 It may be helpful to keep in mind that your disability examiner may be overworked. Some people report that their disability examiner was nice, but some people report they were rude or rushed. Try to remain polite if possible and don’t be surprised if the call is not as friendly as you were hoping for.
💠 Your disability examiner is busy. It is better if you do not call for no reason. Examiners are trained to not call people back unless there is something specific and important.
💠 Be careful about your local office. Some of our readers report that they mailed or brought documents into their local office and these documents never made it to the disability examiner. Always double check.
💠 Many Disability Examiners are kind-hearted people who genuinely want to help. They are often overworked and under a lot of stress. They must work quickly and follow very strict rules. Their work can be scrutinized and they can get in trouble if they do not do everything correctly according to complex and difficult policies. It may be helpful to try to keep in mind that they are people just like you. They are also caught in the Social Security system and also having to follow a lot of rules that can be confusing, frustrating and intimidating.