Qualifying for Social Security Disability

The Consumer's Guide to Qualifying for
Social Security Disability Programs

Life when you have a disability is difficult in itself; being unable to work—because work gives life purpose and meaning—adds to the stress of a disability; life without sufficient income to live as a further result of not being able to work makes your circumstances that much more difficult. But help is available for many. If disease, injury, chronic pain, or psychological disturbance prevents you from working, two U.S. government disability programs are in place that may help provide you with basic income and medical care: SSI and SSDI.

Different Requirements for SSI and SSDI

IncomeSupplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are similar in that both serve an important purpose for those who qualify, but they have different requirements. If you are disabled and have no financial resources, or very few, you will look to SSI benefits for assistance; if you have a significant work history and have had Social Security deducted from your income, you may qualify for SSDI. SSI is based strictly on need; even a disabled child can qualify from birth. Many people who apply on their own are turned down. This is not a hopeless situation, however, and you should not give up after a denial. With the help of an experienced Social Security attorney, you may still be able to receive the benefits you need. It can be a grueling and complex process, however, and one that may be made even more difficult by the fact that you are unwell and may not feel up to a fight. The earlier you bring an attorney on board, the more quickly and painlessly the process is likely to go.

 

Legal Help for SSDQualifying for either type of disability benefits can be a daunting process. Many people who apply on their own are turned down. This is not a hopeless situation, however, and you should not give up after a denial. With the help of an experienced Social Security attorney, you may still be able to receive the benefits you need. It can be a grueling and complex process, however, and one that may be made even more difficult by the fact that you are unwell and may not feel up to a fight. The earlier you bring an attorney on board, the more quickly and painlessly the process is likely to go.

The 5-Part Disability Analysis

To determine if you qualify for SSI or SSDI benefits, the Social Security Administration performs a five-part analysis of your situation. Here is step-by-step description of the process:

1. Current Employment Status

First, the SSA takes will determine if you are currently working at a "substantial gainful activity" (SGA). In everyday language, that means they want to know whether you're working and bringing in any income. If you are earning more than $1040 a month, you cannot claim to be disabled. This rule only applies to income you earn, and excludes income from any other source, such as investments, gifts, or financial assistance you receive from your family.

2. Documenting Your Signs and Symptoms

SSA AnalysisNext, they will examine whether you have a "medically determinable" impairment that poses serious limitations on your activities. You'll need to produce medical records to document the signs and symptoms of your disease or impairment. "Signs" and "symptoms" have specific meanings, which are defined by the SSA: signs are "medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques"; symptoms are problems that you claim to be experiencing as a result of your condition. For example, a herniated disc that appears on an MRI is a sign; excruciating back pain is a symptom of the herniated disc that is limiting your physical functioning.

3. Does Your Condition Qualify?

SSA CheckingThe third step in the five-part analysis is to determine if your impairment is one of the conditions itemized in the Code of Federal Regulations, commonly called the "Bluebook." If you clearly are suffering from one of those conditions, you should qualify for a finding of medical disability. The full list can be found on the Social Security Administration's website. Below is a partial list some of the conditions that may qualify you for benefits:

Even if your condition does not meet or equal one of the impairments on the complete official list, it is still possible for you claim to be approved under Step 4 or Step 5. You can potentially be approved for SSD benefits based on any medical condition or diagnosis after the SSA examines any remaining capabilities you may have to work with the completion of remaining two steps of the analytic process.

4. Examining Your Functional Capacity

Residual Functional CapacityStep 4 is where the SSA will examine whether or not you can do work that you have done in the past by evaluating your residual functional capacity" (RFC). RFC means the abilities you still have remaining—what you may be able to do despite your impairment— considering your limitations, your age, your education, and your work experienced. In this step, they look beyond the diagnosis and assess your ability to handle tasks that involve sitting, standing, lifting, carrying, and mental functions, for example concentrating, exercising judgment, and decision-making. You will be given an RFC classification that will indicate whether you are deemed able to perform sedentary, light, medium, or heavy work, factoring in your age, education, and experience. If the assessment shows you are not able to perform any type of work you've done in the past, the analysis moves forward to the fifth and final part.

5. Can You Work in a Different Field?

Medical RecordsStep 5 aims to determine if you are able to do some other type of work besides the work you've done in the past. If your RFC indicates that you are not able to do even sedentary work, you will need to provide a narrative description of your impairments on your application. You will have to back up this input up by submitting your complete medical records as documentation.

Faster Processing and Approval with Professional Legal Assistance

Legal help for SSD

Wading through the complicated and confusing application process can be frustrating and time-consuming. The language used in the application form can be vague and hard to understand. Can you distinguish whether your disability is a "marked impairment" or a "severe impairment"? You could be turned down for benefits if you are not able to make the distinction, which seems vague at best! This is only one example of the difficulties disability claimants often run into when they try to apply for benefits without assistance.

If you are denied based on your initial application, which happens more often than not, you'll have no choice but to file an appeal. This can take an inordinately long time, leaving you in a precarious financial position as your case drags on. You can often speed things along by hiring a lawyer who specializes in helping clients obtain Social Security Disability benefits. This is especially important when your physical and or mental condition prevents you from being able to handle the long and complicated appeals process on your own.

Research clearly shows that Social Security Disability claimants who are represented by professional disability attorneys win their benefits far more frequently than those who try to do it on their own.

What Your Lawyer will Do to Process Your Social Security Disability Claim

Legal help for SSD

From the beginning of the process to the end, your Social Security Disability lawyer will make certain that every form is filled out properly, that all required information is included, and that the Social Security Administration has everything it needs to processes the claim. Here are the steps your lawyer can handle for you:

Many disabled applicants lack the stamina to fight their way through this complex and lengthy process. When you have a Social Security Disability lawyer working for you, you can relax, knowing your case is in the hands of a professional. This will relieve you of the stress and worry that, unfortunately, plague those dealing with the Social Security System, and you can relax, knowing all the proper filings are being made in your behalf.