Who Processes Your Social Security Disability Application?
Office, Your Local Branch of the Social Security
The Field Office of the Social Security Administration receives your application initially and
determines if you are eligible for benefits based on non-medical criteria.
This office determines whether you are covered under the Social Security Disability Insurance
(SSDI) program, or whether you are eligible to apply under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, if
you do not meet the SSDI criteria.
SSI is a program for the disabled who have not worked enough quarters to qualify for regular
SSDI and who have low income or limited resources.
Once it is decided that you do meet the non medical requirements for the program(s), your
claim is then forwarded to a state agency to determine your medical and vocational eligibility for disability
The DDS Office
The Disability Determination Services (DDS) or Disability
Adjudication Services (DAS) office is a state agency which contracts with the Social Security Administration
to make decisions on the medical and vocational aspects of your disability claim.
Examiners in the office are primarily responsible for coordinating
and gathering all the information necessary to make and issue a decision on your application for
Examiners send requests to your treating doctors, hospitals,
schools, mental health professional, third party representatives, employers and anyone else who can assist in
providing needed information in order to adjudicate your claim.
They are your primary contact
persons if you have questions about the status of your
claimonce it reaches the
DDS office, questions about any scheduled .consultative medical exams, or other general concerns about your
claim can be answered by the examiner.
Because disability examiners write up summaries of your medical
records to be reviewed by a medical consultant (see below), it is important that they understand human
anatomy and disease processes, as well as legal and administrative policies of the SSA. Therefore, examiners
must have a minimal of a four year college degree, and receive extensive “classroom” training before they
become certified to adjudicate disability claims. This training is generally two to three full months of
classroom and on the job training.
In some states, a disability examiner can be certified as a
“Single Decision Maker” (SDM) which means that they have the experience and expertise to make decisions on
physical disability claims without the input of a medical consultant. These SDMs, however, are not allowed to
make independent decisions on the severity of any mental impairment that a claimant has or alleges. Those
claims would have to be routed to a psychologist with a PhD for adjudication.