To receive disability benefits, an individual must first file an application with the Social Security Administration (SSA). An SSA field officer determines whether the individual meets the non-disability criteria for benefits. If so, the field office forwards the claim to the state Disability Determination Services (DDS) for a disability review. Once DDS makes a determination, it sends the claim back to an SSA field office for final processing.
Even though Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are federal programs, a state agency actually decides whether an applicant is disabled for purposes of collecting these benefits. In Georgia, the state agency is called Disability Adjudication Services (DAS). The Georgia DAS approves just over 29% of claims at the initial level. That means that over 70% of claims filed at the initial level are denied.
If an applicant disagrees with an initial disability determination, he or she can file an appeal within 60 days. If an appeal of a denial is filed, the claim then goes to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) which is part of the Social Security Administration. In Georgia, it takes an average 365 from date of application until an administrative law judge (ALJ) rules on your application. In 2011, over fifty percent of the ALJ’s decisions were fully favorable.