This is an archival or historical document. It may not reflect current policies or procedures.

We will review your application to make sure you meet some basic requirements for disability benefits and evaluate any current work activities. If you meet these requirements, we will send your application to the Disability Determination Services office in your state.

This state agency completes the disability decision for us. Doctors and disability specialists in the state agency ask your doctors for information about your condition. They will consider all the facts in your case. They will use the medical evidence from your doctors and hospitals, clinics or institutions where you have been treated and all other information. They will ask your doctors:

They also will ask the doctors for information about your ability to do work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, lifting, carrying and remembering instructions. Your doctors are not asked to decide if you are disabled.

The state agency staff may need more medical information before they can decide if you are disabled. If more information is not available from your current medical sources, the state agency may ask you to go for a special examination. We prefer to ask your own doctor, but sometimes the exam may have to be done by someone else. Social Security will pay for the exam and for some of the related travel costs.

How We Make the Decision

We use a five-step process to decide if you are disabled.

Special rules for blind people

There are a number of special rules for people who are blind. For more information, ask for If You Are Blind Or Have Low Vision—How We Can Help (Publication No. 05-10052).

We will tell you our decision

When the state agency reaches a decision on your case, we will send you a letter. If your application is approved, the letter will show the amount of your benefit and when your payments start. If your application is not approved, the letter will explain why and tell you how to appeal the decision if you do not agree with it.

What if I disagree?

If you disagree with a decision made on your claim, you can appeal it. The steps you can take are explained in The Appeals Process (Publication No. 05-10041).

You have the right to be represented by an attorney or other qualified person of your choice when you do business with Social Security. More information about having a representative can be found in Your Right To Representation (Publication No. 05-10075).