Disability Determination Services
The Social Security Disability program was designed to provide benefits for individuals with severe disabilities, whose physical or mental impairments prevent them from performing gainful work.  In administering that program, each state has established what are referred to as Disability Determination Services agencies.  These agencies are all 100% federally funded and their decisions are made according to the rules and regulations established by the Social Security Administration.
How are Social Security Disability Claims processed?
Most Social Security disability claims are initially processed through the local Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices and State Disability Determination Services agencies. Then, appeals of unfavorable determinations are decided either by a Disability Determination Services agency or by an administrative law judge in the Social Security Administration Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.
How is total disability defined by the Social Security Administration?
Under Social Security rules, you are considered disabled “if you cannot do work that you did before and we decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s).”  The Social Security Administration expects that your disability will last for at least one year or result in death.
Once your application is submitted, your file is turned over to the local Disability Determination Services agency, which actually reviews your medical records and other documentation and medical evidence that you submit.  This department goes by different names depending on the state.  In Arkansas, this office is called the Arkansas’s Disability Determination for Social Security Administration.  In Missouri, it is known as Missouri Disability Determination Services.
These state agencies determine medical eligibility for Social Security disability for their respective residents.  Because this process has been standardized throughout the country, each analyst will determine the answers to specific questions in determining whether you meet the disability standard.
What does the Disability Determination Services agency do?
Once the field office sends your case to a Disability Determination Services agency for evaluation, the agency first tries to obtain evidence of your disability from your own medical sources. If that evidence is unavailable or insufficient to make a determination, the agency will arrange for a consultative examination, in order to obtain the additional information that is needed. The claimant’s treating source is the preferred source for the consultative examination, but the examination can also be conducted by an independent source. After completing its development of the evidence, trained staff at the Disability Determination Services agency will make an initial disability determination.
If the Disability Determination Services agency finds that you are disabled, the Social Security Administration will determine the amount of your benefits, and being making payments.  However, if you are found not to be disabled, your file will be kept in the field office in case you decide to appeal the determination.
Factors that are not considered in determining disability
Whether you “look” disabled is never a consideration.  Nor does the analyst determine whether you “deserve” disability benefits.  In other words, the determination is not that subjective.  Instead, they look strictly at whether you are medically disabled, as the Social Security Administration defines disability.  The determination is not based on “fairness” or what seems right to the analyst.  Nor do they rely solely on whether your doctor believes you are disabled.  Your medical records are what is important.
If you have questions regarding disability determinations, or any other social security matters, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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