The Claim Process
Initial Evaluation
After submitting your disability claim, a representative of the SSA will evaluate your claim to determine if you meet the basic requirements to receive benefits. The representative will also evaluate the amount of income you currently earn on a monthly basis. You do not need to be unemployed to be eligible for disability benefits, however, there is a maximum amount of monthly income, which you may not exceed or you will be determined ineligible. (If you would like help with your claim or a free consultation click here)

Disability Determination Services
Once the SSA representative has determined that you meet the basic requirements of eligibility, your application is advanced to the second level of evaluation. This is called Disability Determination Services (DDS). The office of DDS will make the initial determination of eligibility for your claim. The DDS consists of a team of evaluators that may include disability specialists such as physicians or psychologists. Before the DDS makes a determination, an examiner will determine if all the information and documents required have been submitted. If the examiner believes further documentation is needed, a request will be made to your health care provider(s). At this point the DDS may request other information from you or your health care providers that they believe is necessary to evaluate your claim. Rapid communication is essential to expedite your claim, so be sure to include current contact information as well as a fax number. Because the SSA is frequently sending or requesting documents, a fax number that is easily accessible to you for sending and receiving documents is highly recommended.

Consultative Examination
The DDS will request that you undergo a consultative examination if they determine that your claim cannot be determined based upon the information and documents submitted. A doctor other than your primary physician may perform the consultative examination. However, because your doctor is most familiar with your condition, you may request that the DDS allow your physician to conduct the consultative examination. If the DDS determines that your doctor has the resources and is qualified to conduct the examination, the DDS will approve your request.

Throughout the evaluation, the DDS will consider your health problems and how they might affect your ability to perform previous work experience. They will also consider your level of education and your age. The DDS considers the diagnosis provided by your physician, the severity of the condition, the length of time you have suffered from the condition, and, most importantly, how this condition limits the activities of your daily routine as well as work related activities. Debilitating factors such as chronic pain, physical limitations, mental limitations, and medication prescribed for these conditions are considered in relation to how they limit your ability to perform any work-like activities.

How long will it take and what will DDS decide?
The process of the DDS evaluation can take up to six months, and sometimes longer, before a decision regarding your claim is made. Due to the high rate of denials, an applicant should prepare for a claim to be denied. The DDS denies 60% of all claims based upon the initial evaluation. The DDS will send you a letter regarding their determination. In the case of an approved claim, the letter will indicate the amount of benefits you will receive and the date payments will begin. In the case of a denial the letter will provide an explanation for withholding benefits and provide you with a method of appeal. Once denied, most applicants choose to seek legal representation due to the increased complexity of the appeal process.

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