My friend recently became disabled and she doesn’t speak English. Who is required to provide an interpreter for her during the Social Security disability application process?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a clear policy on this. It is the responsibility of Disability Determination Services (DDS) to provide a free and qualified interpreter for your friend.

Not Just Anyone Can Be an Intepreter

The SSA defines a qualified interpreter as someone who:

  • Speaks, reads, and writes English and the language of the applicant proficiently.
  • Provides accurate interpretation for the applicant and DDS staff. No questions should be initiated by the interpreter and the interpreter should not infer facts or questions that are not presented by DDS staff or the applicant.
  • Is familiar with terminology used in the disability determination process. This includes medical terminology, as relevant.
  • Is willing to comply with the SSA’s disclosure and confidentiality requirements.
  • Does not have a personal stake in the outcome of the case that would cause a conflict of interest.

An applicant may choose to provide his own interpreter so long as the above requirements are met.

Language Should Not Be a Barrier to Social Security Disability Benefits

Either DDS staff or the applicant may request an interpreter. The SSA recognizes that interpreters are important to both the SSA and the applicant in the Social Security disability process so that an accurate and fair determination can be made. Thus, an applicant should not hesitate to seek an interpreter when necessary and should not fail to file an application if he doesn’t have an interpreter identified.

If your friend speaks Spanish, please invite him to read the Spanish version of our website. Otherwise, please inform your friend of his rights, encourage him to request an interpreter, and invite him to contact us for further information.

Carl M. Weisbrod
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Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law