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What to Expect in the SSD Process


In short, expect a long and often frustrating process when you file a Social Security Disability claim, especially in Florida. The Sunshine State has one of the highest initial denial rates in the country. The long process is especially frustrating because, in most cases, applicants clearly qualify for benefits. They have a listed condition, or a substantially similar condition, that prevents them from working, and that condition is at least semi-permanent.

However, despite what bureaucrats might claim in press releases, the Social Security Administration cares little about what’s right or fair. The SSA has a limited budget and this agency wants to hold onto as much money as possible. A Tampa Social Security Disability attorney levels the playing field. An attorney works hard to ensure that applicants get the most amount of money as quickly as possible.

Initial Review

One reason the initial DDS (disability determination services) denial rate is so high is that a Tampa Social Security Disability lawyer has a very limited role. The DDS “hearing” usually isn’t a hearing at all. Instead, the DDS officer simply looks at the medical records, which are usually the product of an SSA physician-affiliated exam, and makes a determination.

Frequently, DDS officers use technicalities to deny benefits. This approach allows them to issue denials without addressing the merits of a claim. These denials are also more likely to withstand subsequent review scrutiny. More on that below.

The initial DDS approval rate is low, but some people do get approved. Although it shouldn’t matter, the applicant’s appearance matters in these situations. For example, if Don has a physical disability claim, he should use a wheelchair, cane, or walker, even if he doesn’t really need such assistance, at least on that particular day.

Subsequent Review

Higher level review by a more experienced DDS officer is usually the next step up. The denial rate at this stage is even higher than the initial SSD denial rate.

The relationship between initial DDS officer and senior DDS officer is like the relationship between graduate assistant and professor. If a professor reviews the grades that a graduate assistant gave students, the professor usually always gives the graduate assistant the benefit of the doubt.

So, unless the initial DDS officer made a serious and obvious error, like using Dan’s medical records to review Don’s case, a senior DDS officer almost always rubber-stamps the initial denial.

ALJ Hearing

This rubber-stamp review isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A quick denial simply means the case moves to the next level much faster. At this next level, an Administrative Law Judge hearing, the environment is completely different.

ALJ hearings aren’t just paper reviews. Attorneys may introduce evidence, make legal arguments, and challenge evidence at these trial-like hearings. This evidence often includes a vocational expert’s report. These highly-qualified individuals review the applicant’s medical status and opine about the applicant’s realistic job prospects.

Additionally, ALJs are much more independent than senior DDS officers. In most cases, the ALJ doesn’t even know the DDS officer. Therefore, the ALJ has no interest in rubber-stamping a prior decision.

Because of this different environment, SSA lawyers are usually highly motivated to make favorable out-of-court settlements prior to an ALJ hearing. So, many applicants don’t have to risk a hearing to obtain disability benefits.

 Reach Out to a Hard-Working Hillsborough County Attorney

Injury victims are entitled to important financial benefits. For a free consultation with an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer in Tampa, contact Kobal Law. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.



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