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Social Security Disability Determination

by Pragati Suman5 min read
Social Security Disability Determination

The Social Security Disability Determination Services, or DDS, is the department that handles the evaluation of claims to determine whether they fall within the coverage criteria. The DDS also handles claims cases that have been resubmitted for reconsideration.

Social Security Disability Determination


Each state in the US has at least one Social Security Disability Determination Services office; some states have more than one. The Disability Determination Services department is completely funded by the State government and are State level agencies.


Social Security Disability Determination Criteria

When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, it is the Disability Examiner in the DDS that will decide whether you claim is valid or not. The Disability Examiners are highly trained members of the DDS. The determination or decision is made based on the following criteria:

  • Medical Records and evidence
  • Psychological records and evidence
  • Vocational data – what was the kind of work you were doing
  • Consultative evaluations
  • Continuous Disability reviews


Social Security Disability Determination Process

  • Applications for Social Security Disability are submitted either by mail, in person, telephonically or online on the Social Security Administration website.
  • In the application, you need to fill in details of your disability. These details include the kind of disability you have, where are you getting treating, what kind of medication/treatment you are being given, as well as any other relevant information with regard to your disability.
  • The applications first come to the SSA field offices. The field officers are responsible for checking non-medical criteria. These criteria include the applicant’s age, employment status, Social Security information such as coverage, marital status, etc.
  • Once the application’s non-medical information has been verified by the field offices, the application is then sent to Social Security Disability Determination Services team.
  • First, the Disability Examiner in the DDS will use the evidence provided by the claimant to determine whether the disability fits within the criteria laid out by the Social Services Administration.
  • If the evidence provided by the applicant is not enough or incomplete, then the Disability Examiner will arrange for a Consultative Examination for the information that it needs to make a decision regarding the application. The Disability Examiner will try to have this examination done through your doctor, however, if that is not possible, then an independent doctor will be called upon to do the examination.
  • Once the relevant medical information is all gathered, the team at DDS assesses the data and takes the initial decision as to whether the applicant is actually disabled as defined by the Social Security Administration.
  • The applicant’s file is sent back to the field office once the decision is taken. If the decision is that the application is qualified for Social Security Disability, then the field office staff process the claim. This includes computing the final disability benefit amount and then starting the payments for the applicant. If the decision is a negative one, that is, the claimant is not disabled according to the criteria specified by the SSA, then the claimant is notified of the decision. However, the field office will keep the file of the applicant in the eventuality that he or she would like to appeal his or her case.
  • If the applicant wishes to appeal his or her case, then a Request for Reconsideration form needs to be filled in and submitted. Here the case can once again be sent to the same DDS office for reconsideration. The other option is that the case will be considered by a judge of administrative law in the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.