The Process of a Claim: SSA vs. DDS

By: Disability Group

Many people who apply for disability benefits are unsure of who exactly handles their claim, and where it is handled. The two offices in charge of handling disability claims are the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Disability Determination Services (DDS). These offices both have very different yet equally important roles in making a decision on a claim.

Social Security Administration

As soon as a disability claim is filed, it is sent to the local SSA office, where the paperwork is processed and where a technical approval must be made. If a claimant has filed for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), they must have a limited income and resources. If a claimant has filed for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), they must have earned enough work credits recently enough. Once SSA determines that the claimant is eligible for at least SSI or DIB, they send the claim on to DDS. If a claimant does not meet either technical requirement, the claim is denied here.

Disability Determination Services

DDS is where the claim resides for the majority of the time. This is where the medical decision is made about whether the claimant is disabled or not. Once it arrives at DDS, the claim is assigned to an adjudicator. The adjudicator is in charge of requesting all the claimant’s medical records and sending forms to the claimant to fill out, and then making a medical decision based on all the received evidence. If the adjudicator does not receive enough evidence, they will schedule a Consultative Exam (CE) for the claimant.

Once the adjudicator makes a medical determination, the claim is sent back to SSA, and the decision notice is then mailed to the claimant. The overall time it takes for SSA and DDS to make this decision is roughly 4-6 months from the time the initial application is filed. However, many claimants are denied at this initial level and must appeal their claim to the next step.