When Is a Person Considered Disabled by Social Security Disability?

by May 31, 2017

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Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays monthly cash benefits to people who the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers disabled. In order to qualify, you must have worked long enough at a job that paid in to the Social Security system and you must meet the SSA’s definition of disabled.

Who does the SSA consider disabled?

The SSA considers a person disabled when he or she has a medical condition that:

  • Meets the SSA’s definition of disability; and
  • Prevents him or her from being able to work for at least a year.

What is the SSA’s definition of disability?

The SSA’s definition of disability depends on the specific medical condition. The Administration uses the Listing of Impairments, also called the Blue Book, to evaluate the severity of each medical condition. The Blue Book covers every major bodily system and contains the technical medical requirements for each condition it considers disabling. Disabling medical conditions include:

  • Musculoskeletal system disorders;
  • Special senses and speech disorders;
  • Respiratory disorders;
  • Disorders of the cardiovascular system;
  • Digestive system disorders;
  • Genitourinary system disorders;
  • Hematological disorders;
  • Skin disorders;
  • Endocrine system disorders;
  • Congenital disorders affecting multiple systems;
  • Neurological disorders;
  • Mental disorders;
  • Cancer; and
  • Immune system disorders.

Our disability attorneys can help you sift through the Blue Book to find the medical severity requirements for your condition. Contact us today for help determining if you qualify for disability benefits.

What evidence does the SSA require to prove my medical condition?

The SSA requires everyone who files a disability claim to prove the presence and the severity of their impairment. According to the SSA, this can be through “objective medical evidence from an acceptable medical source.” If you give them permission, the SSA will help with the collection of the required records.

You can submit your records from medical providers, including doctors, hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities that have evaluated, examined, or treated you for your condition. If your records do not include the specific medical evidence the SSA needs to evaluate your medical condition, you can choose another medical source to conduct an evaluation. Under some situations, the SSA will use an independent medical source to perform a consultative examination.

For help collecting medical evidence to prove your disability claim, contact us today. We can help you establish the presence and severity of your condition to the SSA.

What if my medical condition is not in the Blue Book?

If your condition is not listed in the Blue Book, you may still qualify for disability benefits. You will need to prove that your condition is of equal severity to one listed in the Blue Book. This is more difficult to prove than a condition the SSA has already determined as disabling, but it is possible.

You must also show that, in your particular situation, your medical condition prevents you from being able to work. Sometimes people suffer from multiple medical conditions that, by themselves, would not meet the requirements for a disability, but in combination they render the person unable to work.

Our disability lawyers can help you apply for benefits even with an unlisted condition.

Does the SSA have any other requirements for disability benefits?

After you have satisfied the SSA’s medical condition requirements, you must also prove that your medical condition leaves you unable to work. This is often shown by proving that your medical condition imposes certain limitations or restrictions that impair your ability to work. These are customarily restrictions or limitations on your ability to:

  • Sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, or perform other physical demands of daily work;
  • Understand, remember, concentrate, follow instructions, or handle workplace pressures;
  • Use the senses necessary to perform your work, such as sight, hearing, and other senses; and
  • Handle the environmental conditions of work, such as hot or cold temperatures.

The SSA assesses how well you can function, despite your medical condition, through a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. This assessment uses your complete medical history, consultative examinations, and observations of how your medical condition limits your activity. These observations can come from your family, co-workers, friends, neighbors, and others.

The SSA will also determine if you can continue working to support yourself. This may be through modifying the workplace or reassigning you to less physically or mentally demanding tasks. They will determine if you are able to perform a different type of work based on your age, education, training, skills, or work experience. They may also evaluate whether furthering your education or job training will allow you to work. Only after they determine that, despite all of these options, you are unable to work, will they pronounce you disabled.

What if I am able to earn a small income?

The SSA measures your ability to work by looking at your significant gainful activity (SGA). For 2017, if your income is more than $1,170 a month—$1,950 if you are legally blind—you will not be eligible for disability benefits. This is because the SSA will determine that you are able to work enough to support yourself through SGA.

If I am unable to work, am I guaranteed disability benefits?

Disability benefits are not guaranteed to anyone. There are many reasons you can receive a denial on your application for benefits, even if you have a severe medical condition that prevents you from working.

Many people receive a denial the first time they apply for benefits, especially if they apply without the guidance of a disability lawyer. This denial can be because the applicant did not include enough medical evidence to prove their case or if they made some other error on their application. Many of these people eventually do get approved for benefits if they go through the appeals process.

The SSA also denies applications for SSDI benefits from those who do not have enough work credits to qualify for the program. The required number of work credits varies based upon your age at the time you became disabled.

The SSA may also suspend SSDI benefits for people convicted of a crime and incarcerated for 30 days or longer. The SSA requires them to file an application for reinstatement of benefits upon release in order to resume benefits.

How can I speak with a disability lawyer?

Going through the multi-step SSDI application process is difficult and complicated. If you need assistance with your application, we can help. The attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group have vast experience helping people get the benefits they deserve. You do not have to go through this alone. Call us today at 865-566-0800 to set up your free consultation.