Childhood Disability Evaluation Form (SSA-538)
TN 2 (07-15)
DI 25230.001 Explaining Title XVI Childhood Disability Evaluation Determinations
20 CFR 416.924(g)
A. Introduction to Disabled Child (DC) Claims
All Title XVI childhood disability determinations or decisions require an explanation of the findings, documented in writing, in a manner that we prescribe. For the requirement of how we will explain, our findings see DI 25201.015.
B. Policy for Prescribed Forms
1. Where to document findings
There are two prescribed forms for documenting the case explanation:
Childhood Disability Evaluation Form (CDEF), SSA-538
Childhood Disability Evaluation (CDE) for cases processed in the electronic Claims Analysis Tool (eCAT)
NOTE: For non eCAT claims there must be one “official” prescribed form in the case record that gives the disposition and clearly supports it.
For claims completed in eCAT, a CDE is optional for dispositions of Meets, Medically Equals, Functionally Equals listing based on example, and Other. A CDE is only required if the severe impairment(s) require a domain evaluation.
Refer to DI 25230.005 for a detailed explanation of documenting the findings.
2. When to complete the prescribed form
The policies in this section apply to:
Initial Disabled Child (DC) determinations
Reconsideration DC determinations
Initial level DC determinations for continuing disability reviews (CDRs)
Reconsideration level DC determinations for CDRs unless a Disability Hearing officer (DHO) makes the determination
Reopening determinations, if the determination being reopened is covered by these policies
3. When to complete more than one prescribed form
We require a second prescribed form for specific cases:
DA/A: In all DA/A materiality determinations, apply the appropriate sequential evaluation process a second time considering whether the individual is disabled without DA/A involvement.
DC CDRs: When medical improvement (MI) of the Comparison Point Decision (CPD) impairment(s) is established and there are new impairments to consider in the current assessment at Step 3 of sequential evaluation.
4. Required elements in the explanation
A complete explanation includes the following elements:
Identifying information (name, SSN, date of birth), filing date, level of determination
Established and alleged impairments
Explanation for all the dispositions, except “meets listing”
Consultant (MC/PC/non-physician) statement that all relevant factors and evidence have been considered
Signature of Consultant with overall responsibility for evaluating the case
Signatures of additional MC/PC/non-physician participating in the evaluation
5. Factors and evidence
The Consultant with overall responsibility for the findings in the determination, affirms that he or she considered the following:
All relevant factors
All relevant evidence in deciding if:
The child has a severe impairment(s)
An impairment(s) meets or medically equals a listing, or
An impairment(s) functionally equals the listings
The affirmation statement does not mean that the consultant needs to explicitly address each of these factors in every case. It means, the consultant has considered whether the factors apply, and has properly considered those that are relevant. The factors and evidence serve as a reminder to the consultants.
6. Affirmation of the initial level findings at the reconsideration level
The medical or psychological consultant(s) may affirm the initial prescribed form without fully completing a new prescribed form if the following conditions are satisfied:
There is no allegation of a worsening of any previously documented impairments;
There is no allegation of any new impairment(s);
There has been no treatment for any impairment(s) since the prior determination;
The prior determination was substantively and technically correct and the prior decision rationale correctly presented and resolved all pertinent issues to be adjudicated; and
There are no changes in the functional limitations
The reconsideration determination can reference the initial determination with a remark noting, “I have reviewed all the evidence in the file and the assessment of (date) is affirmed as written. The medical or psychological consultant(s) must sign and date this statement.
7. Responsibility for the required explanation
a. Consultant with overall responsibility
The medical, psychological or non-physician consultant has overall responsibility for the content of the form and must sign the form to attest that it is complete and that he or she is responsible for its content, including the findings of fact and any discussion of supporting evidence.
Any additional consultants who provide input must also sign and date the form. The disability examiner may assist in preparing the form.
If a signed prescribed form reflects that the medical or psychological consultant's findings complete the medical portion of the determination, the consultant is not required to sign the Disability Determination and Transmittal form (SSA-831 or SSA-832). For a detailed explanation regarding signature requirements see DI 26510.090C.
NOTE: Non-physician medical or psychological consultants are limited to evaluating the effects of impairments within their disciplines.
b. Disability Examiner (DE)
A DE alone may be responsible for the required explanation if:
There is no medical evidence in the current file or in any prior files, or the DDS is unable to obtain any medical evidence that may exist, despite making every reasonable effort, and
The claimant refuses or fails, without a good reason, to attend a CE
DI 24501.001 The Disability Determination Services (DDS) Disability Examiner (DE), Medical Consultant (MC), and Psychological Consultant (PC) Team
DI 27021.010 Affirmation of a Prior Disability Determination
DI 28005.030 The CDR Evaluating Process – Title XVI – Step-by-Step Discussion
DI 81020.025 Processing Electronic Reconsideration Cases
DI 90070.041 Evaluating Cases Involving Drug Addiction and Alcoholism (DAA) SSR 13-2p