Skip to main content

Disability Determination Services Collaborations: Five Tips for Engagement

Here are five practical tips that may help SOAR providers establish stronger and more successful working relationships with their state DDS.

Tips for Engagement with DDS

Due to the residual impact of COVID-19 and staffing shortages, it is not uncommon to experience delays in days to decisions for submitted SOAR applications. State Disability Determination Services (DDS) agencies have faced challenges that impact processing times, and many SOAR providers across the country have expressed interest in establishing stronger relationships with DDS partners. Stronger partnerships help SOAR providers to understand these challenges and facilitate a mutually beneficial working relationship to alleviate some of the burdens that DDS is facing.

Here are five practical tips that may help SOAR providers establish stronger and more successful working relationships with their state DDS.

1. Understand the role of DDS

The Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews non-medical information before forwarding claims to DDS. Once at DDS, the examiner reviews medical information and determines if the applicant is medically eligible for benefits. It is important for SOAR providers to understand the difference between SSA and DDS to ensure that questions or challenges are directed to the appropriate representative. This will help to avoid delays in processing.

2. Follow the SOAR model with fidelity and track your outcomes

Gaining buy-in from DDS is much more promising when SOAR providers can present SOAR outcomes confidently. Adhering strictly to the SOAR model promotes successful outcomes that can be leveraged in meetings with DDS. Keeping in close contact with the applicant, responding to requests in a timely manner, submitting hard-to-access medical records, and providing a well-documented Medical Summary Report signed by an acceptable medical source all help support the work of the DDS examiner. Focus on highlighting what is going well first, and be able to emphasize successful outcomes before discussing outcome delays and asking for a change.

3. Maintain contact with DDS examiners while claims are processed

Maintaining regular contact with the DDS examiner can create the space to establish relationships with individual examiners and open the lines for two-way communication to collaboratively work the claim toward a decision.

4. Determine if there is a Homeless Unit at DDS in your state

The ultimate “ask” is to have a dedicated point-of-contact or team of DDS examiners to process SOAR claims. Find out if there is a Homeless Unit within your DDS and provide information that explains the SOAR model so that the unit can see the connection between what SOAR does and their current workload. There is the potential to have a dedicated examiner assigned to SOAR claims within that unit!

5. Join or establish a SOAR Steering Committee

Connect with your State or Local Lead to join an existing Steering Committee meeting or, if no Steering Committee exists, join the effort to establish one. Be sure to invite DDS to join! This creates a space for DDS to be actively involved, collaborate, address barriers, and hear SOAR successes.

For more information on collaboration with DDS, please access our Guide to Collaborating with the Social Security Administration and Disability Determination Services.