When a Social Security Disability applicant files a claim for Social Security Disability benefits, there are a number of “stages” that this claim goes through. When the applicant’s claim is first filed, it is handled by one of the SSA’s field offices and then once the field office is done with the claim, another agency (usually referred to as Disability Determination Services of DDS) handles the remainder of the claim processing.
When an applicant submits a claim for Social Security Disability benefits, that claim is collected by the local Social Security field office. The field office that handles the claim is responsible for verifying the disability benefits eligibility requirements that are non-medical in nature (such as work credit requirements for SSDI or income requirements for SSI). Once all of the application paperwork has been put together and non-medical eligibility has been verified, the claimant’s application is then sent to the DDS.
Once the DDS has a Social Security Disability claim in their hands, they are responsible for gathering the medical evidence that will be necessary to make a determination as to whether or not the applicant is actually disabled. The DDS prefers to obtain medical evidence from the applicant’s current medical providers; however, if enough medical evidence is not available the DDS may require an applicant to go to a third-party professional for a consultative exam. The purpose of this exam is solely to diagnose and determine the extent of an applicant’s disability. The medical professional who is performing the consultative exam will not try to treat the disability applicant in any way whatsoever.
Once all of the medical evidence has been gathered and reviewed, the staff at the DDS will determine whether or not the Social Security Disability applicant is eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. If the DDS does find that an applicant is indeed disabled, they will return the claim to the SSA so that the claimant’s benefit amount can be calculated and benefits can begin. If the DDS determines that an applicant is not disabled, the claim will be denied.
Because the DDS makes their decisions based solely on objective medical evidence, it is crucial that an applicant provide the SSA with sufficient medical evidence when submitting their Social Security Disability claim to the Social Security Administration. It will be easier for the DDS to approve a disability claim if there is a wealth of objective medical evidence supporting the claim, such as medical records, lab results, treatment histories and other medical documentation. Written statements from treating physicians should also be included when possible.
If the DDS determines that an applicant does not qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, the applicant does have a right to appeal this decision. It is important to note, however, that the disability appeal process can take from several months to more than two years. Because of this, it is in an applicant’s best interests to do everything possible to be approved for benefits during the initial stage of the application process, and that means providing the DDS with the medical evidence that they will need to determine that a disability is indeed present.