How The Process Of Determining Eligibility For SSI Benefits Works
You apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) by either going to your local Social Security field office or by calling the Social Security toll free number (800.772.1213) and making an appointment at a near-by office.
If Your Claim Is Based On Disability Or Blindness
After you submit your application, your Social Security office will look to see if you meet the general requirements for eligibility (see Who Is Eligible For SSI?)
If you meet the financial requirements, Social Security then gives your file to a state agency to review the medical information and determine whether you qualify medically for disability or blindness. The name of the state agency varies from state to state. Generally it is called something like the Disability Determination Services (DDS) or Disability Evaluation Department (DED). California calls it the Adult and Disability Programs Office. Social Security tends to call them all DDS offices.
The Medical Review
About one to two weeks after your interview, your file will be sent from Social Security to the state agency in your state that processes the medical portion of the applications for all Social Security disability claims and all Medicaid claims. Such offices are generally referred to as DDS.
At DDS, a Disability Analyst will be assigned to handle your file. The Analyst will obtain your medical records if you have not already provided them and use them to determine whether or not you are disabled according to their standard. Your Social Security Claims Representative should be able to give you the Analyst's name and phone number if you don't hear from him or her directly.
During the review period, it is advisable to:
- Check in occasionally with the Analyst, but not so frequently you become a bother. While the Disability Analyst's workload is such that you may have trouble making a friend, it still will help if you try to make a friend with the Analyst during this process. See Timetable Of An SSI Application, How To Make A Friend With The People At Social Security.
- Ask if the Analyst is waiting for any records or information. If so, you can help obtain them. Your doctor's office is likely to respond to your request for rapid handling of the request than Social Security. If necessary, consider offering to come in and photocopy the records yourself.
- Send any new information to the Analyst as it develops. If there are new lab reports, or new or worsening symptoms, make sure the Analyst gets the medical records that show any changes.
On the basis of your answers on the initial forms and your diagnosis, the Analyst may send you supplemental questionnaires to be completed. These questionnaires are frequently called "Optional" forms, but that means they are optional to the Disability Analyst, not optional for you. If the Analyst decides the forms are needed, you have to complete them to keep your claim alive. The most common forms are:
Before completing the forms, it is recommended that you read: Tips When Completing All Questionnaires Concerning Your Medical Condition
There are other forms that may be used in the process that you should be aware of even though you are not expected to complete them. Each state develops its own forms, so while the forms are similar because they all need the same information, the specific form will vary from state to state.
If Your Claim Is Based Solely On Being Over Age 65
After you submit your application, your Social Security Administration office will look to see if you meet the financial requirements for SSI benefits.