When you apply for Social Security disability benefits or file an initial appeal because your application was denied, it will be processed through a network of local Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices and state agencies called Disability Determination Services. In North Carolina as well as in all other states, the SSA first makes a technical determination on your application and then transfers it to a local DDS. A disability examiner at the DDS decides whether or not you are disabled.
If you file subsequent appeals, a DDS examiner may decide the outcome of your case or an administrative law judge in the SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review may make the decision.
What is the DDS Examiner’s Determination Process?
DDSs are federally funded agencies whose purpose is to render decisions on disability claims for the SSA, including Social Security Income (SSI) applications, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit applications and Medicaid for disabled adults.
When the SSA transfers your application to a DDS, your case will be assigned to a disability examiner. The examiner will review all your paperwork and medical data and try to determine if and to what degree you are disabled. He or she will have access to a small team of professionals to help make the decision, including a medical doctor and a psychologist. “Usually, the DDS tries to obtain evidence from the claimant’s own medical sources first. If that evidence is unavailable or insufficient to make a determination, the DDS will arrange for a consultative examination (CE) to obtain the additional information needed,” explains the SSA.
The team will work together to determine your functional capacities and whether or not you are disabled, per the law’s guidelines. It usually takes the DDS three to four months after you file your application to make a decision. The DDS then will send your case back to the SSA field office for appropriate action.
What if Mistakes are Made in the Disability Decision-making Process?
It is important to understand that no two disability examiners are alike, and despite the SSA’s guidelines, one examiner may have a completely different decision than another. If an examiner makes a mistake and your application for disability benefits is wrongly denied, you have the right to submit a Request for Reconsideration (learn why here) and continue to pursue your benefits. Before you request an appeal, however, you should consult and have your claim reviewed by an experienced disability attorney at Patton Brown Law.
Do not hesitate to call us for help obtaining SSDI or SSI benefits. Our team can answer any questions you may have about benefits and help you navigate the application process. Call us today at 855-860-2150 for a free consultation or contact us online.