Who Decides if I Am Disabled?

Get The Benefits You Deserve

There are several requirements that need to be met before the Social Security Administration will designate a person "Disabled" and award benefits. It is important to remember that "disability" comes in two forms, Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") under Title II of the Social Security Act, and Supplementary Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. A disability applicant is allowed to apply for both SSDI and SSI on the same application and the medical criteria for both programs are identical.

In an SSDI claim, the Social Security Administration will conduct an investigation to determine if you have worked long enough to qualify for SSDI. If the applicant has not, they may still be eligible for SSI.

SSI is a disability program based on an individual's income and assets. If after an investigation by an SSI financial eligibility worker, it is determined that an applicant's total income and assets fall below a certain level then they are deemed eligible for SSI. These limits vary based on the state the person lives in as well as his/her living arrangements, the number of people living in the residence, and the type of income (if any) being claimed.

Once an applicant has been determined eligible for SSDI or SSI in the Panama City area, the Social Security Administration sends the application to the Florida Department of Health Disability Determination Services ("DDS") office in Tallahassee or Pensacola. DDS will then complete the disability decision. This is done by reviewing medical records from doctors, hospitals, clinics, or institutions where the applicant has been treated or sent for testing. DDS will focus on:

  • The applicant's medical condition(s);
  • When the applicant's medical condition(s) began;
  • How the applicant's medical condition(s) limits their activities;
  • What the medical tests have shown regarding the applicant's medical condition(s); and
  • What treatment the applicant has received.

DDS will also ask doctors for their opinion on the applicant's ability to do work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, lifting, carrying, concentrating, and remember instructions. It is important to understand that the applicant's doctor will not be asked to decide if the applicant is disabled and should receive benefits. An applicant may only be designated "disabled" and therefore awarded SSDI or SSI benefits by the Social Security Administration or a by judge after reviewing the application and medical records.

After an initial review, it is very common for Florida DDS to require additional medical information prior to making a determination on your claim. If more information is not available from your current medical records, Florida DDS may require you to go for a special examination in the Panama City area which the Social Security Administration will pay for. It is important to know that it is the diagnosis and observations by the applicant's doctor that will be given more weight and credibility in the disability application process than a doctor hired to conduct a special examination by Social Security.

If you have any questions about the Social Security Disability process, call Panama City attorney Rusty Shepard at The Disability Group today for a free consultation and case evaluation. The Disability Group regularly accepts Social Security Disability cases from Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties.

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