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Determinations of Disability

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at

115. Determinations of Disability

115.1 How does SSA determine disability cases?

State Disability Determination Services (DDS) generally make decisions on disability cases. DDSs are state agencies in every state that SSA funds and administrates for the purpose of making disability determinations. SSA makes disability insurance determinations for persons living outside the U.S., and for a few other applicants whose cases are not covered under the Federal-State regulations. Generally, an evaluation team composed of a medical or psychological consultant and a lay disability evaluation specialist is responsible for making the disability determination. The evaluation team makes every reasonable effort to obtain medical evidence from your treatment sources.

115.2 Who checks to make sure that determinations made on disability cases are correct?

Our Office of Quality Assurance and Performance Assessment reviews a continuing sample of DDS determinations in the Disability Quality Branches (DQB) in our ten regions. These DQBs ensure that DDS determinations are correct, consistent, and in line with national policies and standards. As a result of a Quality Assurance review, a DDS's findings may be reversed.

115.3 What can you do if you do not agree with our determination about your claim?

If you are not satisfied with the determination made on your claim, you may appeal. You may request reconsideration and submit new evidence if it is available. A reconsideration determination for disability claims is made by a different decision maker, not connected with the initial determination in the DDS where the original determination was made. Again, the DQBs review the DDS reconsideration determinations. If you appeal your case further, an administrative law judge (ALJ) will hear your case in a face-to-face hearing. If the ALJs decision is not favorable to you, the Appeals Council of the Office of Hearings and Appeals may issue a separate decision. (See Chapter 20.)

Last Revised: Apr. 18, 2006


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