Disability Determination Services

Disability Determination Services (DDS) is a unit within the Office of Rehabilitation Services. DDS is the state agency which determines the medical eligibility of Rhode Island residents (children and adults) who have applied for cash benefits under the disability programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The two SSA disability programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) (Title II) and Supplementary Security Income (SSI) (Title XVI). The DDS is responsible for collecting medical evidence of record and determining whether the claimant is disabled and/or blind as defined by the Social Security Act.

SSDI (Title II) provides for payment of disability benefits to individuals who are "insured" under the Act by virtue of their contributions to the Social Security trust fund through the FICA tax on their earnings and also to certain disabled dependents of insured individuals. SSI (Title XVI) provides payments to individuals (including children under age 18) who are disabled and have limited income and resources. It is possible for an individual to be eligible for both SSDI and SSI simultaneously.

The Social Security Act and related rules and regulations detail the parameters used to determine if an individual meets SSA's definition of disability. The criteria used by SSA are not necessarily the same as the criteria applied in other government and private disability programs.


Image of book Social Security Disability Hearing

Definition of a Disability

The definition of "disabled" for adults is the same for all individuals whether applying for disability benefits under Title II or under Title XVI. The law defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity 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.

Disability in Children

Under Title XVI, a child under age 18 will be considered disabled if he or she has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments which cause marked and severe functional limitations, and last or can be expected to last for at least 12 months in a row, or result in death.

What Is A "Medically Determinable Impairment"?

A medically determinable physical or mental impairment is an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be demonstrated by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. A physical or mental impairment must be established by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings, not only by the individual's statement of symptoms.

The Disability Determination Process

Most disability claims are initially processed through state DDSs. Subsequent appeals of unfavorable determinations may be decided in the DDSs or by administrative law judges in SSA's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR).


Applications for disability benefits can be filed at any Social Security Office. Appointments can be arranged by visiting any of the local offices listed below or calling the national number toll free at 1-800-772-1213. Applications can also be completed and submitted on-line at www.ssa.gov.

Social Security Field Offices

SSA representatives in the field offices typically complete applications for disability benefits through interviews, either in person or by telephone. Applications can also be submitted by mail or over the internet. The application and related forms ask for a description of the disabled individuals' impairment(s), the names, addresses and telephone numbers of treatment sources, and other information that relates to the alleged disability.

The field office is responsible for verifying non-medical eligibility requirements, which may include age, employment history, marital status, and other Social Security coverage information. The field office sends the case to the DDS for an evaluation of the individuals' eligibility based on medical and vocational factors.

Local Social Security Offices

  • One Empire Street, Providence, RI 02903 Tel: 877.402.0808
  • 30 Quaker Lane, 1st Floor, Warwick, RI 02886-0111 Tel: 866.964.2038
  • 4 Pleasant Street, Pawtucket, RI 02860 Tel: 866.931.7079
  • Pavilion Plaza, 2168 Diamond Hill Road, Woonsocket, RI 02895 Tel: 877.229.3452
  • 130 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI 02840 Tel: 866.253.5607

Related Benefits/Appeals

An individual found eligible for SSDI benefits will receive Medicare after 24 months. An individual found eligible for SSI benefits will receive Medicaid immediately.

An individual found ineligible for disability benefits will have 60 days to file an appeal with the Social Security Administration.

If benefits are ceased, the individual has appeal rights and the opportunity for a face-to-face hearing.

All applicants, whether allowed benefits or not, may be referred for vocational rehabilitation with the Office of Rehabilitation Services.

If Further Information Is Required Regarding Disability Determination, Please Contact:

Beth Rioles - 401.462.7716