What is the Disability Determination Service’s (DDS) role?

The Disability Determination Service’s role is to make a medical decision on your disability claim in both the intial application and reconsideration phases of the disability process

SSA logo on phone. SSA Website in background on computer screen

Once you have submitted your initial application online and your local Social Security office has verified all non-medical requirements, your disability claim will be assigned to a specific adjudicator, or examiner, within Disability Determination Services (DDS). All states have at least one DDS agency, but some have more than one.

Your examiner should be in contact with you or your professional disability representative throughout the entire process in both the initial application and reconsideration phases.
(Reminder: Some states omit the reconsideration phase.)

The examiner’s job is to use the 5-Step Sequential Evaluation Process to determine if you medically qualify to receive disability benefits. In order to do this, a DDS examiner can do three things:

  1. Order medical records
  2. Send claimants activities of daily living questionnaires (ADLs)
  3. Schedule consultative examinations (CEs)

Medical Records

Ordering medical records is mandatory and the number one job of the examiner. Medical records should be ordered from each location listed on the application submitted to Social Security. If you remember or receive treatment at additional facilities after your application has been submitted, you must notify DDS so they can request additional records. If you receive treatment at a facility you listed on your application after the application has been submitted, you should let your examiner know so they can request the updated information. If you do not tell them, they will only request your medical records once.

While ordering medical records is mandatory, the examiner has the option to send you questionnaires regarding your conditions and/or set up a consultative examination (CE) with one of their doctors. This will not always happen – it is the examiner’s job to determine what information is missing from your claim and to complete the claim with the necessary information.


There are many different questionnaires the examiner can choose to send you, but the most common are the function report, work history report, third party contact, and pain questionnaires. Each of these questionnaires contains personal questions regarding how your disability affects your life. While questionnaires do not necessarily play a large role in determining your disability, they are your only chance to provide the examiner first hand accounts of how your condition(s) affect you. You should answer them fully and completely. 

Consultative Examinations

Finally, an examiner will schedule a consultative examination (CE) if they do not have enough medical evidence to support a decision. This could be because they requested medical records from a facility that has not responded or because your medical records are outdated and they need current information regarding your conditions. If an examiner believes a certain test needs to be done (such as an MRI or X-ray), they can schedule a CE to obtain this information as well. 

Once an examiner has received all necessary information, they will make a decision and send the claim back to your local Social Security office. Your DDS examiner will not tell you whether or not you were approved for disability benefits. You must wait to receive a letter from Social Security containing this information.

If your claim is currently pending with Disability Determination Services, contact us now. We have extensive experience working with these examiners and are happy to help!

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