Michigan Department of Human Services and Disability Determinations

Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be a confusing process. Few people are aware of how the Social Security Administration (SSA) decides whether to grant a person disability benefits. Although Social Security is a federal program, state agencies play a significant role in the decision-making process.

In Michigan, the Department of Human Services (DHS) acts as the administrator for Disability Determination Services (DDS) for applicants. It is important for those applying for Social Security disability benefits to understand the disability determination process in order to ensure that their applications contain the information that will help them receive benefits.

Disability Determination Services

When an application for Social Security disability benefits is complete, the SSA office forwards the file and all of the supporting documentation such as medical records to the local DDS office. In Michigan, that office is part of Michigan's DHS.

Once an applicant's file gets to the DDS, a DDS team comprised of a medical or psychological consultant and a disability examiner review the application and medical evidence the applicant provided. If the team decides that there is insufficient information to determine whether an applicant meets the SSA's definition of disabled, they may request additional medical evidence from the applicant's healthcare providers or ask the applicant to undergo an examination either by the applicant's doctor or a doctor that they choose.

Once the DDS team finds sufficient medical evidence, they decide whether the applicant meets the SSA's definition of disabled. The SSA defines disabled as "the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months."

After the DDS team makes a decision on an application, it returns the file to the SSA field office for the appropriate action. If the DDS team found that the applicant is disabled, the SSA office completes anything on the application still incomplete, calculates the amount of benefit payments and begins paying. If the DDS team denies that the applicant is disabled, then the SSA office retains the file should the applicant choose to appeal the finding.

Michigan's Department of Human Services

Michigan's DHS also makes eligibility for state programs contingent on applying for federal benefit programs. All Michigan residents who receive State Disability Assistance must apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the need-based disability benefit program that the SSA offers. If the SSA denies the SSI application, the applicant must pursue an appeal of the decision in order to remain eligible for state need-based programs. DHS assigns all applicants a DHS specialist to assist with the application process.

Applying for Social Security disability benefits is a long process and can be complex. If you are considering applying for disability benefits, do not hesitate to contact an attorney for assistance to ensure that your application is as complete as possible.