Whether your claim for SSD benefits is approved during the initial application, on appeal, or not at all, the (Illinois) Disability Determination Services Agency, or DDS, is the first stop on the way to approval. (In other states the agency may be called the Bureau of Disability Determination or the Disability Determination Division, but the function is the same).

Here are five things you should know about this all-important agency and the role it plays in helping determine your eligibility for SSD benefits.

The DDS Determines if your Disability Meets SSA Criteria

DDS is a federally-funded state agency that processes SSD benefits applications and, as the name implies, determines whether an applicant is disabled. Although the initial interview is conducted by a claims representative at your local Social Security Administration field office, the claims representative forwards the completed application to the state DDS agency. Once there, it is assigned to a disability examiner who, working in conjunction with a medical, psychological, and a case consultant, will examine the application, review your medical records, and decide whether to approve or deny your claim.

The DDS Handles Requests for Reconsideration

If your application for SSD benefits is denied – and roughly 71% are at the initial stage – you have the right to appeal. The first level of appeal is a request for reconsideration, which is also handled by the DDS. The only difference between the initial application review and a review upon a request for reconsideration is that the request for reconsideration is assigned to a new disability examiner who was not involved in reviewing the initial application.

The DDS can Gather Medical Information

If the disability examiner needs additional information regarding your work or medical history to determine whether you are disabled, he can request the necessary information directly from your medical providers and/or past employers (you must sign a waiver for the DDS to request this information).

The disability examiner can also perform a residual functional capacity assessment to help gather information about what activities and tasks you can or cannot do as a result of the disability, which in turn helps them determine the impact the disability has on your ability to engage in work-related tasks. Any information collected by the disability examiner becomes part of your file, so if your application is denied, it will be available for the administrative law judge to review during an appeal.

The DDS Can Order a Consultative Exam

If your application contains insufficient medical evidence to support your disability claim, or if your medical records are more than 90 days old, the disability examiner can order a consultative exam. This exam, conducted by independent physicians who contract with the SSA, is designed to assess an applicant’s current medical condition and how the disability may impact his ability to work.

The DDS Can Conduct Continuing Disability Reviews

Applicants who are approved for SSD benefits must periodically undergo continuing disability reviews (CDRs) to determine whether they are still eligible for benefits. Disability examiners (not necessarily the same one who approved or denied your initial application) conduct these reviews.

Do you need help navigating the complex landscape of applying for Social Security Disability Benefits? Consider our office for your legal representation. Call #(847) 577-4476 or complete this online form for a free case evaluation.