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How to Efficiently Review Social Security Disability Files

Have you ever received such a large Social Security Disability (SSD) file that it makes your motivation quickly disappear? I certainly have! Fortunately, there are a few effective strategies for moving through large SSD files that I’ve learned and want to share with you. Not only will these tips help Social Security Disability representatives move through the file more efficiently, they can improve accuracy, too

Disability Determination Explanation (DDE)

I review the Disability Determination Explanation (DDE) in the A Section of the file first.

The DDE is an excellent place to begin as you get a quick review of what the SSA and/or DDS levels found regarding:

  • Date last insured (compare to Certified Earnings Record to ensure correct DLI)

  • Severe impairments

  • Residual functional capacity

  • Medical evidence of record referred to in the evaluation

  • Vocational specialist finding of past relevant work or transferable skills

  • Medical consultant’s finding at each Step of the evaluation

Although the SSA and Disability Determination Services (DDS) evaluations are typically less restrictive and overly optimistic, there is a lot of evidence available in the DDE for a quick review.

Medical Opinions

Medical opinions can help you quickly review any severe impairments and functional limitations. All medical opinions indicate which severe impairments reduce the Claimant’s ability to work, and they report the functional limitations stemming from severe impairments. Most medical opinions refer to supporting evidence, which you can look for when reviewing the rest of the file.

The SSA’s consultative examinations occasionally include an opinion that includes:

  • Physical examinations

  • Background information

  • Mental status examination

  • Medical treatment

  • Severe impairments

  • Functional limitations

Treating opinions typically include:

  • Length of time he/she has treated Claimant

  • Specialization

  • Impairments

  • Response to treatment

Finally, some medical opinions may indicate the date Claimant’s impairments became disabling.

Admission and Discharge Summary

If there are any hospitalizations, it is beneficial to review admission and discharge summaries to quickly gather information regarding Claimant’s symptoms, treatment, and level of functioning. I suggest skimming through a bulk of the evidence during a hospitalization and focusing on admission and discharge summaries.

The admission summary reports on Claimant’s condition on admission, such as:

  • Symptoms

  • Current treatment

  • Possible impairments

  • Medication compliance

  • Substance abuse

  • Interaction with medical staff

  • Treatment plan

The discharge summary typically indicates:

  • Claimant’s response to treatment

  • Medications

  • Scheduled follow-up treatment

  • Impairments on discharge

  • Overall condition on discharge

Intake Assessment

If Claimant has psychiatric treatment, an intake assessment prior to mental health treatment may contain a significant amount of information.

The mental health professionals typically note:

  • Claimant’s relevant social background

  • Trauma

  • Past treatment and any medicinal side effects

  • Treatment recommendations

The intake assessment includes severe impairments and notes the Claimant’s treatment plan, including prescribed medication, individual and/or group therapy, and possibly inpatient treatment.

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