Who makes the decisions about disability benefits?

For many people, the process of securing Social Security disability benefits seems shrouded in mystery, a complex process that only a limited group of people can readily comprehend.

While it's certainly understandable why people might feel this way, it is by no means the truth. Indeed, behind the myriad considerations and arcane language, the underlying question is always the same in every case: Are you disabled?

In the interests of shedding some light on this issue, today's post, the first in a series, will explore who exactly makes the decision as to whether you are disabled and the matters taken into consideration when making this decision.

Where does the process start?

Your application for disability benefits will first be reviewed by officials with the Social Security Administration to determine whether it satisfies certain threshold requirements.

What are these threshold requirements?

In general, SSA officials will verify that you have worked for enough years to qualify for the SSDI program and review current work activities (if any).

What happens if I satisfy these threshold requirements?

If the SSA officials are satisfied that you meet these threshold requirements, your application will be processed and forwarded to the Disability Determination Services office located in your home state for further review.

The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services' Division for Disability Determination Services, located in Austin, is the state agency tasked with conducting this review.

What exactly does the DDS do?

While the final decision as to whether disability benefits are awarded is left to the SSA, the DDS is responsible for making a disability determination.

In making this disability determination, both disability experts and physicians employed by the DDS will review all of the medical evidence submitted, submit inquiries to treating physicians, ask for more information from the applicant or even order a special examination paid for by the SSA.

In our next post, we'll explore the five-step process employed by the DDS in making disability determinations.

In the meantime, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you would like to learn more about whether your injury or illness would qualify for disability benefits.

Source: The Social Security Administration, "Disability benefits," Accessed Dec. 4, 2014