The Role of Disability Determination Services in Your Claim

By Disability Group

What is Disability Determination Services?

Disability Determination Services (DDS) is the state office responsible for making the medical decision about whether or not an applicant is disabled.  In order to be awarded benefits a claimant must meet medical and non medical requirements.

Non medical requirements are different, depending on which benefits you are pursuing and can involve many factors including: income, resources, living arrangements, work credits, etc.  Your local Social Security office is responsible for determining whether or not you meet these non medical requirements. Once the initial application has been accepted and processed by the local Social Security office, it is sent to Disability Determination Services, where examiners will determine whether or not you meet Social Security Administration’s medical requirements for disability.

Office What they evaluate
Local Social Security Office Non medical requirements

(income, work credits, other benefits, etc.)

Disability Determination Services

(State office)

Medical requirements

(medical records, exams, claimant forms, etc.)


I applied for Social Security Benefits, why am I receiving forms from the state?

The DDS office handling your claim is usually an office in your state, though in special circumstances claims can be handled by another state. Once the office receives your claim it is assigned to an examiner who is a specific person responsible for your claim. This examiner, also called an “adjudicator” will then collect medical evidence to determine the nature and severity of your disability or, in other words, to see whether or not you are disabled according to Social Security’s standards. In addition to collecting medical records from the doctors and hospitals you listed on your initial application, examiners frequently request information directly from you (as the claimant) by sending you questionnaires to fill out. These forms give the examiner added perspective about how your daily life is affected by your disabilities and more insight into the type of work the claimant used to perform. Some common forms DDS offices request from disability applicants are:

  • Work History Form– asks you to list in detail each job you have worked in the past 15 years, along with a brief description of each.
  • Adult Function Report– asks how your conditions affect your basic daily activities.
  • Pain Questionnaire– asks questions that elaborate on the severity and extent of your pain, if applicable.
  • 3rd Party Function Report– asks a friend, family member, or acquaintance to comment on the ways you are affected by your conditions.


Note: In addition to collecting forms and records, examiners sometimes schedule appointments (Consultative Exams) with doctors employed by social security to evaluate the claimant.

Does my examiner have the final say?

Once your examiner has collected all the necessary medical evidence to determine whether or not you are disabled, the claim is sent to be reviewed by doctors in the office. This team of doctors works for Social Security and are responsible for making the final medical decision. If the doctors decide “yes” the claim is approved, and if they decide “no” it is denied. Before this decision reaches you the claim must leave DDS and return to the local Social Security office where notices will be made and sent out.