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Disability Determination Service what is it?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have submitted my Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application and I was told that it had been sent to the Disability Determinations Service office (DDS). What does this mean and when can I expect a disability decision?”


What happens to your disability application after submission?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Claimants who are disabled and unable to work for at least 12 continuous months may apply for SSDI or SSI benefits by submitting their application to the SSA for review.

The local Social Security Administration field office performs the first part of the review, analyzing the non-medical status of the applicant (i.e. whether they are currently working too many hours to qualify, whether they have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, or whether SSI applicants meet the resource and income limits).

Disability application sent to the Disability Determination Service office 

After the disability application is reviewed by the SSA field office and they determine that the applicant meets the nonmedical requirements for SSDI or SSI benefits, the application is then forwarded to the Disability Determination Service or DDS.

Although DDS is considered a state agency and all states have at least one agency, they are the ones who determine a claimant’s eligibility for disability benefits. It’s also important to note that in some states the agency is called Disability Determination Service but in other states it’s referred to as the Division of Disability Determinations (DDD), Disability Determination Service Division (DDSD), or the Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD)

What does the DDS do with the disability application?

The disability examiner at the Disability Determination Service office has been trained to review the medical as well as vocational information of the disability applicant. The DDS examiner also has a thorough understanding of the disability process and the requirements each disability applicant must meet to be considered disabled by the SSA.

Specifically, the DDS examiners are responsible for reviewing each application to determine whether the applicant meets the medical requirements for SSDI or SSI and whether the claimant’s condition either meets a listing on the SSA Listing of Impairments or whether the condition is so severe that it does not allow the claimant to retrain for new work or work their current job.

How does the Disability Determination Service make their disability decision?

To make the disability decision the disability examiner will gather medical information from the doctors or treatment sources listed on the claimant’s disability application. Additional evidence such as a claimant’s work history and their ability to perform daily activities is also evaluated. Some claimants may also be required to attend a medical evaluation from a medical doctor if their doctor does not send information or the Disability Determination Service needs more information to make a decision.

Unfortunately, the Disability Determination Service denies the majority of the disability applications. If an application is denied, the claimant will be notified and they will have 60 days from the date of the denial to request a reconsideration to have their case reviewed a second time by another DDS examiner.

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