Disability Determination Services

Disability Determination Services is a department funded by the Social Security Administration to determine medical disability for state residents who want to apply for social security benefits. Each state has one, and it is responsible for processing thousands of cases each year. Here are some of the methods it uses to determine disability:

Method #1: Examination of Medical Records

Making the determination as to whether you’re medically disabled and therefore qualified to receive benefits may be as simple as looking at your medical records. As part of the application process, you’ll be asked to sign a form giving permission to release your health records. Some cases are processed by this method alone, and no further medical investigation is required.

Method # 2: Medical Examination

There are cases in which the medical records are inadequate to prove disability, and Disability Determination Services may request a medical examination. The expense is often covered by the department itself, and reimbursed by the Social Security Administration. The examination will specifically focus on the issue of disability, and it’s often conducted by a state medical consultant who works directly for the department or one who is hired as an independent contractor.

Method #3: Working at the Same Level

One of the criteria established by the Social Security Administration to determine disability that the Disability Determination Services has to assess is whether you’re able to continue working at a certain level. For example, if you’re unable to lift items or stand for long periods when you were able to do so prior to your disability, then you may be eligible for disability benefits. You don’t have to show proof of your limitation at work. A medical consultant will complete a form provided by the Social Security Administration that will assess your limitations on the job to carry out work activities. The limitation falls into 4 categories: sedentary, heavy, medium or light.

Method #4: Ability to Return to Work

The medical consultant will also evaluate whether you’re able to return to work based on the disability. If you’re able to return to work, then it’s more than likely that you won’t be eligible for benefits. You won’t be denied benefits, however, if it’s shown that you won’t be able to return to work due to your disability.

Method # 5: Age and Educational Background

Physical disability is one part of the assessment made by Disability Determination Services, but the department also evaluates the medical capacities of claimants. Your educational background is important in determining your eligibility for disability benefits as well. For example, if you’re a 20 year old who suffers a back injury that limits your ability to work, but you’re a college graduate who majored in business management, then you may be denied benefits. The rationale is that you’re limited physically but you can still seek information-based employment where physical labor is not required. 

Disability Determination Services is your second stop in the process of applying for benefits. The first stop is submitting an application to the Social Security Administration.