How Alabama’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) Office Evaluates SSD Claims

Navigating the Social Security Disability (SSD) application process in Alabama involves several steps, including evaluation by the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office. Understanding how the DDS evaluates SSD claims can help applicants better prepare and increase their chances of approval. Let’s explore the process of disability determination in Alabama and what factors the DDS considers when evaluating SSD claims.

Initial Review

The first step in the disability determination process is the initial review of the SSD application by the DDS office. During this stage, DDS examiners assess the applicant’s medical and non-medical eligibility for disability benefits. This includes reviewing medical records, work history, and other relevant documentation provided by the applicant.

Medical Evidence Evaluation

A crucial aspect of the DDS evaluation process is the assessment of medical evidence submitted by the applicant. DDS examiners review medical records from treating physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers to determine the severity of the applicant’s impairments and their impact on their ability to work.

SSA’s Listing of Impairments

The DDS evaluates SSD claims based on the criteria outlined in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Listing of Impairments, also known as the “Blue Book.” The Blue Book contains a list of medical conditions and impairments that may qualify individuals for disability benefits if they meet specific criteria outlined in the listings.

Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Assessment

In addition to reviewing medical evidence, DDS examiners assess the applicant’s residual functional capacity (RFC). RFC refers to the individual’s ability to perform work-related activities despite their impairments. The RFC assessment helps determine the applicant’s limitations and restrictions in terms of physical and mental capabilities.

Consultative Examinations

In some cases, the DDS may request a consultative examination (CE) to obtain additional medical information or clarification on the applicant’s condition. The CE is conducted by a healthcare professional contracted by the DDS and may include physical examinations, diagnostic tests, and interviews with the applicant.

Vocational Factors

In addition to medical evidence, the DDS considers vocational factors when evaluating SSD claims. This includes the applicant’s age, education, work experience, and transferable skills. These factors help assess the applicant’s ability to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA) and engage in gainful employment despite their impairments.

Decision and Appeals Process

Based on the evaluation of medical and vocational evidence, the DDS makes a determination on the applicant’s eligibility for SSD benefits. If the claim is denied, applicants have the right to appeal the decision through a multi-step appeals process, including reconsideration, hearings, and appeals council review.


Understanding how the Disability Determination Services office evaluates SSD claims in Alabama can help applicants navigate the application process effectively. By providing thorough medical documentation, cooperating with DDS examiners, and seeking legal assistance if needed, applicants can improve their chances of obtaining the disability benefits they deserve.