Who Determines Whether I Am Disabled or Not?

The short answer is the Social Security Administration (SSA); however, the longer and more accurate answer is Disability Determination Services(DDS).

First, SSA will review your application to make sure you meet some basic requirements for disability benefits. They will check whether you worked enough years to qualify. Additionally, they will undergo an evaluation of any current work activities. If you meet these requirements, they will process your application and forward your case to the DDS office in your state. This state agency completes the initial disability determination decision for SSA. Claims examiners and medical examiners in the state agency ask your doctors for information about your condition. DDS is supposed to consider all the facts in your case. They’ll use the medical evidence from your doctors, hospitals, clinics, or institutions where you have been treated and possibly additional information.

Some of the questions they will ask pertain to the following:

  • Your medical condition(s);
  • When your medical condition(s) began;
  • How your medical condition(s) limit your activities;
  • Medical tests results; and
  • What treatment you’ve received.


DDS also ask the doctors for information about your ability to do work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, lifting, carrying, and remembering instructions. Keep in mind that it is not your doctors who decide if you’re disabled. Rather, according to the rules it is up to DDS to make that determination. Also, if your medical sources can’t provide the necessary information, DDS may ask you to a consultative examination. Social Security will pay for the exam and for some of the related travel costs.

When DDS makes its determination on your case, they will send a letter to you. If your application is approved, the letter will show the amount of your benefit, and when your payments start. If the application isn’t approved, you typically have the option of appealing the decision.

To learn more about the appeals process, please read “Social Security Denials and Appeals” available through disabilitysecrets.com.


By Kevin J. Kohler

Written by Kevin Kohler

Kevin Kohler - Author Hoglund Law.

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