When first applying for Social Security benefits, you must complete the application process by filing an application online or over the phone and providing the necessary documentation needed to review your claim. The Social Security office then sends your application to be considered for approval or denial. But once the application is filed, the process can get a bit vague unless you know the next steps. Who exactly is in charge of reviewing your application?
The Social Security office will confirm that you worked enough to qualify for Social Security disability benefits and if your current employment status would disqualify you from receiving benefits for any reason. If you do meet all necessary criteria, Social Security then sends your file to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) department for a comprehensive review. This is the office that makes the final decision on whether your case is approved or denied.
The Disability Determination Services department reviews all information and medical records provided. If the examiner that reviews your case feels that there is not enough information to make a determination, you may be subject to a consultative exam. In some cases, you may undergo multiple consultative exams.
At this point, the examiner will make a decision once all information, medical records, and exams are reviewed. The decision is based on the medical evidence provided, whether or not your disability is included in the Social Security Listing of Impairments, if you can continue doing the type of work you were doing before your disability or if you are not capable of performing any work at all.
You will then receive a letter from the Social Security office detailing whether your claim was approved or denied. If approved, the letter will state the amount of your monthly benefits and when you will begin receiving the award. If your claim is denied, the letter will include information on the denial reason and next steps to appeal the decision.
Keep in mind that the Disability Determination Services department only approves approximately 37 percent of initial applications. Many of the claims that are denied will go on to the appeal process. Hiring a qualified disability lawyer does improve your chances of being approved at the initial stage since the representative can provide guidance and advice about the application process. Expect a decision on the initial application within a timeframe of three to six months. Should you qualify for Social Security’s Compassionate Allowance, you may be able to receive a decision quicker.