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How does the SSA evaluate disability claims?

When a Missouri resident begins the application process for Social Security disability benefits, their application will usually be handled initially by a Social Security field office, which will determine whether the applicant meets the non-medical requirements for benefits. These typically include employment, age, marital status and other requirements. The application can be filed online, by mail, by telephone or in person.

If the non-medical requirements are met, the field office will send the applicant’s file to the Missouri Office of Disability Determination Services. This is a state agency, financed by the Social Security Administration, which evaluates whether the applicant meets the medical requirements for SSD benefits. The DDS will determine whether the disability renders the applicant unable to work at any job for which they would otherwise be qualified and whether it qualifies as a long-term disability.

The DDS office will review the applicant’s medical records and request reports from the applicant’s own doctors and providers. If additional information is needed, the DDS may arrange a consultative examination by an independent doctor.

Once the DDS has completed its review, it makes an initial determination as to eligibility. It then sends the applicant’s file back to the SSA field office. The SSA then completes the review of any remaining non-medical issues, calculates the amount of benefits, and begins the process of paying the benefits.

If the application is denied, the applicant’s file is retained in the field office pending any appeal by the applicant. Many denials of applications are overturned on appeal, so the applicant should not lose hope if they are turned down initially.

Source: Social Security Administration, “Disability Evaluation Under Social Security,” accessed Jan. 28, 2016

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