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SSDI application what happens to it after it's filed with SSA?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). I completed the SSDI application and sent it to the SSA. I am wondering what happens now? I have heard it could take months for the SSA to make a disability determination. What exactly does a disability examiner do?”


First steps in the SSDI application process

After you submit your SSDI application it is first reviewed by a claims representative at the SSA office. The claims representative, however, is not determining whether or not you are disabled. In fact, the only thing they will review is whether you meet the nonmedical requirements for SSDI benefits.

  1. Do you have enough work credits for SSDI benefits?

  2. Are you working and making too much money to qualify for benefits?

  3. Are you within the appropriate age range?

  4. Do you meet the citizenship requirements?

If the SSA claims representative determines you meet the nonmedical requirement they will transfer your SSDI application and SSDI file  to the Disability Determinations Service Office (or equivalent office) in your state.

What does the DDS Do after they receive the SSDI application?

Assuming your case meets all of the nonmedical requirements for SSDI benefits, it is transferred to the DDS office for a medical review. The DDS examiners main job is to review your medical information in your medical records and determine if your condition meets the SSA’s definition for disabled.

To do this, the DDS examiner must request your medical records from all of your treating sources. After they receive the medical records they will evaluate the severity of your condition and determine whether it will last 12 continuous months or result in your death and whether it is so severe that it meets a condition on SSA Listing of Impairments.

If it does not meet a listing they will assess your functional limitations to work, including your ability to continue working your current job, any past relevant work, or to retrain for new work.

If the DDS does not have enough information to make a disability decision they may ask for you to see a consultative examiner. The consultative does not make a disability determination but rather provides more information about your condition to the DDS examiner.

Can I contact my disability examiner?

After your case has been sent to the disability examiner in your state’s DDS office you should be able to contact them and ask questions about your case. Getting a hold of the disability examiner, however, may be tough, but theoretically it can be done by contacting the SSA local field office and getting the number for your state’s DDS agency.

Why does it take so long to process my claim?

There are millions of disability applications filed with the SSA each year. Understaffing is a big issue. Claims examiners are generally working as fast as they can, but given the high volume of cases they are trying to process it can take 90 days or more to have your case reviewed.

Keep in mind, however, if the DDS is not able to get your medical records from your doctor or it takes a long time this can add weeks or months on to the decision making process.

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