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Who Processes Your Social Security Disability Application?

 

From Disability ESP Newsletter , V5, Issue 2 

 

 

Field Office, Your Local Branch of the Social Security Administration

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 benefits.

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.

Disability 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 benefits.

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.
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