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What does the Division of Disability Determination Services do?

When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits here in New Jersey, your application will first go the Division of Disability Determination Services (DDS), a state agency that processes these claims. You may be a little confused by this, knowing that SSDI is a federal program and wonder why it would go to a New Jersey agency.

That is the way the process was created. The state claims examiners at the DDS follow procedures established by the Social Security Administration and the federal statutes that enacted the SSD program. In addition to SSD, they also process the claims for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is a separate program, frequently used by those who have never worked and who meet the income eligibility limits for that program.

The claims examiners at the New Jersey DDS office will review your application, looking at factors such as whether you are currently working, the seriousness of your impairment, and if your medical condition matches one those listed under SSA's listings of impairments.

If you are earning more than the limits set for substantial gainful activity (SGA), your claim will be disallowed immediately. If you are unable to work or not earning more than the SGA limits, the examiner will then assess your medical condition. If you have a condition that is within the SSA's listing of impairments, your claim can be processed quickly.

On the other hand, if your condition is less specific and your documentation is insufficient to demonstrate a clear impairment, your claim is likely to be denied. At that point, you may request a reconsideration, where a different examiner will review the claim. If they deny your claim, you will then need to appeal your claim to an administrative law judge (ALJ).

Because of the complexity of this process and the applications themselves, many applicants find it necessary to seek legal assistance, especially if they will need to appear at a hearing with an ALJ.

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