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Who Decides If You Are Disabled?

After helping you complete your application, the Social Security office will review it to see if you meet the basic requirements for SSI or SSDI. If you meet these basic requirements, SSA will then send your application to the Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD). The BDD office will decide if you have a disability under the Social Security law.

In the BDD office, a team consisting of a physician (or psychologist) and a disability examiner will consider all the facts in your case and decide if you are disabled. They will use medical evidence from your doctors and from hospitals, clinics, or institutions where you were treated. Again, the quicker we get the evidence, the faster we will process your claim. We suggest you bring any copies of medical reports when you apply.

You should also be sure to contact the doctors and treatment facilities to let them know SSA will be requesting medical evidence in your case. We ask your doctors or other sources for a medical history of your condition; when it began; how it limits your activities; what the medical tests have shown; and what treatment has been provided. We also ask about your ability to do work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, lifting, carrying, and remembering. We do not ask them to decide whether you are disabled.

The BDD team may need additional medical information to decide your case. We may ask you to have a special examination called a consultation examination. We prefer your doctor or the medical facility where you were treated perform this examination. We will pay for the examination and/or any other additional medical tests you may need, and travel expenses related to it.

Our rules for determining disability differ from those in other government and private programs. However, we may consider a decision made by another agency and the medical reports it used to determine if you are under Social Security rules.

When we reach a decision on your claim, we will send you a letter. If we approve your claim, the letter will show your benefit amount and when payments will start. If we do not approve your claim, the letter will explain why and tell you how you may appeal our decision.