When a person applies for disability benefits under the SSA programs, they
must state what medical problems they have that are disabling and who has
been treating them for these. They are also required to give their work history
and discuss how the medical problems have affected their functioning.
The initial application is made to the State Disability Determination Services
(DDS) in the state where the claimant resides. The DDS investigates the claim
by obtaining copies of medical records and by verifying work history and FICA
payments. If the claimant does not have a doctor or if there is not an adequate
evaluation in the records, then DDS must arrange for a medical exam at DDS
expense. Usually, the DDS has a group of physicians in various specialties who
know the requirements of the program and who regularly do consultative
exams for the program.
Once the medical evidence (records) is received, it is given to a physician to
evaluate. This physician is an employee or contractor of the DDS who only sees
the records. If the physician knows the claimant or has cared for him or her in
the past, then this physician does not process the case.