If you are applying for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA), or if you have already gone through the process, chances are you have at least heard of Disability Determination Services (DDS). They are the ones who will conduct your examination to determine if you are considered legally disabled. But why do you need to go to them in the first place? Is a regular doctor not good enough to make that kind of decision?
The Role of DDS in Social Security Disability Applications
When someone applies for disability benefits through the SSA, whether it is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), they must prove they suffer from a disability that makes them unable to work. While it would be nice to simply take a person’s word for it, ultimately someone needs to formally make the determination about whether someone is legally disabled. The DDS is the agency entrusted with making that formal determination.
DDS is technically a state-run agency, but it operates under the auspices of the SSA. It maintains a staff of medical examiners whose sole job is to conduct examinations with anyone applying for SSDI or SSI benefits. They compare the person’s symptoms against known medical and psychological ailments, and determine the extent to which that person’s ailment disables them. If their condition is sufficiently bad that it is determined they will not be able to work, they can qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits.
Why Do You Need to Go to DDS?
DDS exists as a semi-independent examiner for the SSA to determine if someone has a disability. While it would be nice to be able to simply rely on the word of a general practitioner, the fact of the matter is that some doctors cannot be trusted to give an objective assessment of their own patients’ disability status. Some doctors are simply too sympathetic towards their patients, and would be willing to give them a certification of disability regardless of how impaired they actually are. Others are just plain dirty, and the SSA fears that relying on outside doctors could facilitate fraud, or could result in errors that harm applicants.
Unfortunately, these concerns are not merely hypothetical. In places where DDS has attempted to contract out their cases to private doctors, benefit denials skyrocketed. These private doctors, who were paid on a case-by-case basis, rushed through their examinations to conduct as many as possible in as short a time as possible, maximizing their payouts. One doctor, for example, was conducting one such examination every fifteen minutes, when typically they are supposed to take forty minutes. The result was a shocking number of people being incorrectly denied disability benefits.
What is Involved in a DDS Examination?
During the examination, you will be asked about your symptoms and undergo an examination by a DDS medical or psychological examiner. They will collect evidence of your symptoms and compare them to something known as the “Green Book,” which is a compiled list of all medically recognized conditions. Even if your symptoms do not match something in the Green Book, they may say you are disabled based on the severity of the symptoms you are experiencing.
Even if you are initially rejected by DDS, that is not necessarily the end of the road for you. There are appeals processes in place for people to have their claim re-evaluated. However, you should not go through that kind of process without an experienced lawyer at your side.
If you or a loved one need assistance applying for SSDI or SSI benefits, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced Social Security Disability benefits lawyer. The lawyers at Sullivan & Kehoe, LLP have over 50 years of combined experience between its attorneys and are available to you or your loved one in obtaining Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits. To schedule a consultation with our New York Social Security Disability benefits lawyers, call (631) 823-7155.