How do you find out if a Social Security Disability claim has been approved or denied?

This page addresses two basic issues, which are 1. How is a person notified of a disability decision after that decision has been made by Social Security and 2. How do you find out what is happening with your case (i.e. getting the status) regardless of whether the case is being worked on as a disability application, an appeal, or is at the hearing office (either waiting for a hearing, or waiting for a hearing decision).

Getting a decision notice after you are approved

If your disability claim is denied or approved, Social Security will send you a notice of decision in the mail. Most often, if your disability claim has been denied, the state disability agency responsible for making the decision, will send you a disability claim denial letter.

Note: In most states, the state agency that has been given the responsibility of making decisions on Social Security Disability and SSI claims is DDS, or disability determination services. DDS is the agency where disability examiners make decisions and process claims, chiefly by gathering and carefully evaluating a claimant's medical evidence.

If you are approved for Social Security Disability, you will receive both a notice of decision indicating the claim has been approved and a notice of award letter indicating what benefits will be paid. A notice of award is not sent by the state disability agency that made your disability determination, but, instead, by the Social Security Administration itself.

Note: SSI disability claims that are approved by a disability examiner are sent back to the local Social Security office for an end-line interview. This interview is used to determine if the applicant still meets all of the non-medical requirements of the SSI program (concerning income and assets). If they do continue to meet these requirements they will receive an SSD or SSI award notice, if not, they will receive an official denial notice.

Checking the status of the case

If you want to check the status of your disability case, you can do this, or your disability attorney or disability representative can do this for you. Generally, it involves just a quick phone call.

If your case is at the disability application level, it is pointless to call the Social Security office where you applied. This is because they do not actually work on the case and they will only know if you have been approved or denied once the disability examiner assigned to the case has made a decision.

To get a real status update, call the disability agency in your state that is working on the case. In most states, the agency is named DDS, disability determination services. In some states, it is referred to by a slight variation of this name, such as the disability determination division. You can get the number for DDS from the Social Security office. When you call DDS, they will generally ask for your name and social security number and then connect you to your examiner. This is often a good opportunity for the examiner to ask you any additional questions about your medical or work history, or your daily activities and limitations.

How often should you check on your case?

When your case is initially being worked on, probably more than once every 90 days would be too much. However, you can always have your disability lawyer conduct periodic followups. If your case is at the disability hearing level, meaning you have requested a disability hearing but have not had one yet, you or your lawyer can call the hearing office to check on scheduling but there is usually not much benefit in doing this after you or your attorney have confirmed that they received the request for hearing. If you have already had your disability hearing, perhaps you might want to have you or your lawyer call once every 90 days to check the status of your hearing decision.

Tips for keeping up with the status of your case

Just a quick reminder: decisional notices are just one of several reasons that you should keep Social Security apprised of your current mailing address. If you move while you are awaiting a decision, you should notify both the disability examiner working on your case and the local Social Security office where you began your claim.

If you have not received a decisional notice from Social Security within ninety days of initially filing, it may be helpful to contact Social Security to check on the status of your disability claim.

To sum up

You will always receive an official written notice with regard to the decision of your disability case. However, you should check the status of your disability claim once in a while to make sure a decision has not been made to avoid the risk of having your sixty-day appeal period lapse (if it turns out that you were denied and did not receive notification). Social Security, of course, uses the postal service to send their notices, so there is a chance that your notice could get lost in the mail.

If you have disability representation, of course, your representative will receive a copy of everything that is mailed to you and this will help minimize the chance that you will miss notification of actions on your case.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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