From the application process all the way to your administrative hearing with an Administrative Law Judge, the Social Security Administration will look at everything in order to determine whether or not your are disabled.
The Social Security Administration will look at all your medical records. They will review the treatment notes from the visits to your doctors, any objective testing (such as x-rays or blood work) ordered by your physicians, as well as notes from hospitalizations and surgical procedures. They may also send you to their own physicians for consultative examinations. SSA will consider the findings of these doctors as well when determining whether or not you are disabled.
The type of work you have performed in the past will also be examined closey. The SSA has access to information from the IRS which reports how much money you earned from employers in the past. This information is vital to the decision of whether or not you are disabled. A major step of the sequential evaluation process is to determine whether or not you can continue to work at a job you’ve already performed in the past at the substantial gainful activity level. SSA may send questionnaires to your former employers to determine what type of work you performed and when you performed it.
Your education is a key factor in considering the types of jobs potentially available to you in the national economy. For this reason, SSA may request your school records to better understand the level of education you achieved in high school and beyond. Additionally, school records serve as important evidence of certain types of conditions (such as learning disorders, mild intellectual disability, and autism) that may help explain why you are unable to currently work. Sometimes the intelligence testing and mental status examinations found in high school records can be the difference between winning and losing a disability case.
Social Security is required to consider what you have to say concerning why you believe you are disabled. At the initial application level, SSA will ask you to complete forms to explain your abilities and limitations in writing. Your signed statements are what SSA considers at this stage. At the administrative hearing level, you will be given the opportunity to testify at an administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. At the hearing level, your sworn statements before that judge will be considered in determining whether or not you are disabled. You have a right to be heard.
3rd Party Statements
The SSA will ask for the statements of those who know about your physical and mental abilities and limitations. Often times at the initial application stage, SSA will ask people who live with you to fill out questionnaires about their knowledge of your conditions. SSA also allows people who know you to testify at your administrative hearing before the judge.
The Opinions of Your Physicians
Sometimes, your personal physician may be willing to write a statement in support of your application for disability benefits. Social Security must consider the opinions of your doctor regarding your physical and mental abilities and limitations. The SSA has specific rules regarding the opinions of doctors and how their opinions should be considered by decision makers. A supportive doctor’s written statement can sometimes be the most powerful piece of evidence in your disability claim.