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What You Need to Know About the Department of Social Security Disability

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What You Need to Know About the Department of Social Security Disability

If you are filing a claim for social security disability benefits (SSDI) or supplemental security income (SSI), it’s important to understand the workings of the government department that you will be dealing with: the Social Security Administration (SSA). Several important facts about the SSA, including its organizational structure as well as the different stages in the SSDI or SSI process, directly relate to what you will go through when filing a claim. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to handle the decisions that come your way.

Social Security Disability Claim Concept


The SSA is a federal government agency, which means that it has a single commissioner who heads the department as well as several deputy commissioners and other executive agents. However, the SSA does most of its work through the different states that it operates in, so each state also has at least one regional or field office, which then reports up to the overarching federal headquarters. This is important because when you file a claim, you will do so with your closest local SSA branch – and it may only go up to the federal level if you go through numerous appeals.

There are also several steps to the claims process that the SSA has in order to try to streamline the millions of applications that it receives each year. You begin by filing a claim with your closest SSA office, which includes relevant paperwork as well as any supporting documents that can help show why you deserve SSI or SSDI benefits. This is then reviewed by a disability examiner through the disability determination services (DDS), who will make a decision on whether to approve or deny your claim. Sometimes, the case is sent up to a review board called a disability quality branch (DQB), who will look over the examiner’s decision and decide whether it is valid or not.

If your claim is initially denied, you can file an appeal and have it reviewed by another, separate disability examiner. This is to ensure that the first decision was not biased or based on misinformation, and also allows you to include any new evidence that you have. If this appeal is denied as well, you can ask for a hearing before a judge, who will make the decision instead of a disability examiner.