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When applying for disability, the disability application forms ask you to describe your impairments, whether physical or mental, what treatments you have received, medications you are taking, and how your impairment(s) affect your ability to work. It is important to be specific and thorough when filling out this application.
When you first submit an application for disability benefits, the application will be reviewed quickly to make sure it meets basic requirements and to look at any current work history. From there your application will be sent to the local Disability Determination Services (DDS) in your state.
The state office (or the closest office in your state, if you live in a large state) will assign a DDS examiner to your case. This person will use the medical information provided in your file to complete a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form and to evaluate whether you meet disability criteria. Here are the steps they will use:
Sometimes more medical information is needed before a decision can be reached. If this information is not available, you may be asked to have a Consultative Exam (CE). This is an exam performed by a doctor assigned by the state who can help fill in gaps about your medical information. The Social Security Administration (SSA) pays for this exam.
Once enough medical information has been gathered, the DDS will make an initial disability determination and your case will be returned to the SSA. If you are found to be disabled, the SSA will calculate the benefit amount and pay benefits. If you are found to not be disabled, your file will be kept in the field office in case you decide to appeal your claim. This is called a Reconsideration Appeal.