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DDS or Disability Determination Services what do they do?

Recently on our disability forum a user asked, “What is the DDS office and what have they done with my SSDI application?” If you have filed for Social Security Disability Insurance and submitted your application to the regional Social Security Office they will perform the initial processing, which means they will determine if you meet the nonmedical requirements for SSDI or SSI benefits.

If you meet the criteria, they will forward your application to a state agency to review whether your meet the medical criteria. This state agency is often called the Disability Determination Services or DDS (other states may use different names such as Division of Disability Determinations (DDD), Disability Determination Service Division (DDSD), or the Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD)).

What does the DDS do?


The Disability Determination Services office employs disability examiners who review disability applications and determine if they meet the medical criteria for SSDI or SSI benefits. When they receive your disability application they will first order medical records from all of the treating sources you have listed on your application. After they receive the medical records, which can take weeks or months, they will begin the SSDI and SSI medical review.

Meeting criteria for SSDI benefits


Qualifying for SSDI can be difficult. The first criterion the DDS will review is whether you are working and earning too much income to be considered disabled. The amount of work you are allowed to do is called substantial gainful activity or SGA work. It can include both substantial, meaning you are working too many hours, or gainful, which means you are making too much money. If the DDS determines you are working too much your application will be denied.

Next, the SSA will review your medical condition and determine if your condition is severe enough to be considered disabling. For example, if you have cancer but the cancer is contained, treatable, and not likely to last a year the DDS is likely to reject your application.

Next, if the SSA determines you are not currently working too much and your condition is severe they will review whether it meets or exceeds a listing on the SSA Listing of Impairments. If they determine you meet a listing they will accept your application and send it back to the SSA for more processing. If, however, they determine it does not meet a listing your application will be denied.

Vocational Medical Allowance


Not all claimants will have a severe medical condition which meets a listing. The SSA also has one more process called the medical vocational allowance process they will use to determine if you are disabled. Under the medical vocational review the DDS will determine if you are able to work your previous job or retrain for new work given your age, work history, skills, and educational level.

For example, if you are a 59 year old man who has a high school education and has only performed heavy labor, the SSA may determine it would be impossible for you to retrain for sedentary work, such as a staff assistant, given that you do not have any transferrable skills and limited educational experience.

If the DDS determines you cannot retrain for new work they will determine you are disabled and send your application back to the SSA for further processing. If you can retrain for new work they will reject your application.

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