Most working Americans pay a portion of their paycheck into the Social Security system.  When they turn around 65 or so years of age, they begin receiving part of the money back, depending on how much they placed into the system throughout their working career.  But what happens if an individual becomes significantly impaired—to the point of being unable to work—before they reach 65 years old?  Obviously, the money they have accrued in their Social Security account does not help them right now—if they are so destitute that they have no reasonable means of present income.  Rules for Social Security disability are very complex but, briefly, the government allows some individuals to draw from their Social Security early—if they meet particular criteria.  In cases where this occurs, regular review is monitored by the Social Security system. 

In some cases, individuals are physically impaired, in some cases they are psychologically impaired, and in other cases—the impairment that prohibits work is a combination of physical and psychological impairments.  In cases where a psychological impairment is suspected, the services of a psychologist are utilized in order to help gauge the legitimacy of the impairment and its severity.  Clinical interviews (with or without psychological testing) may be requested in behalf of claimants by the Social Security Disability office, the claimant’s attorney, or both.

Psychologists in disability cases are requested to provide a clinical interview (sometimes that includes testing).  Following a mental status review, the psychologist is requested to provide a discussion or, in some cases, an appraisal that relates to four work-related capabilities.  If the claimant’s adjudicator denies the request for disability, then the claimant has the right to direct the case to a federal administrative law judge.  Most often, the claimant is represented by an attorney who argues the case before the judge. The administrative law judge makes a decision regarding the case.