How does Social Security evaluate a disability benefits claim?

If you are unable to work due to a persistent health condition, you may want to apply for Social Security disability benefits. As such a disability can affect your ability to provide for yourself and your family, submitting the form sooner rather than later is advisable.

The evaluation of a disability claim is a time-consuming and complicated process. Here’s what it entails.

6 steps in a disability evaluation

  • A local Social Security Administration (SSA) office receives your disability claim.
  • This local office verifies your non-medical eligibility, which could include age, employment, marital status or Social Security coverage information.
  • Once the SSA confirms your non-medical eligibility, they send it to a Disability Determination Service (DDS) office.
  • If necessary, the DDS will request a consultative exam to confirm a diagnosis or the severity of a medical condition. This consult is more likely if you have a condition that is not on the official list of impairments.
  • The DDS will make the disability determination.
  • The DDS sends the case back to the SSA field office for processing. If the DDS granted disability benefits, the SSA will determine the amount and start issuing benefits. If the DDS denied benefits, the SSA office stores the claim in the off chance the claimant files an appeal.

With this knowledge, you can file your claim with greater confidence, aware of the road ahead. For a listed impairment, the path is smooth. For an unlisted impairment, there are obstacles, but getting benefits is still possible.