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Qualifying For Social Security Disability Benefits

Posted by attorney Lisa Lanier

It’s a widely known fact that applying for social security disability benefits is a daunting process. Before you apply for SSDI, it’s important to find out if you qualify.

Whether you are a single adult, a spouse or a mother or father, it’s vital to have a steady stream of income to support yourself and/or your dependants. At a time when your disability isn’t covered by workers’ compensation insurance, you are going to want to find out if you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, otherwise known as SSI.

The first step in the process is to determine if your disability is significant enough for Social Security to deem you disabled. Social Security considers a person disabled if they are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to any medically determinable physical or mental impairment. Furthermore, the impairment must either be expected to result in death or it must be expected to last for a minimum of 12 continuous months.

The criteria for being deemed “disabled" is fairly high for the Social Security Administration. There are a significant number of jobs that can be performed while seated, and there are others that require little mobility as in at a call center. If your impairment is severe enough as to interfere with basic work related activities, then they will consider you disabled.

The first thing Social Security will look at is whether or not you are currently working. If your income is above a predetermined threshold, they will not find you disabled. Next, they will look at whether or not your medical condition is one that they recognize as severe. The Social Security Administration has their own list of medical conditions that they consider to be severe. It’s important to understand that even if you have a listed medical condition; it doesn’t mean that you will be considered disabled. Your conditions must meet the requirements before you can receive benefits. Social Security has separated medical conditions into 14 distinct categories, and within each category specific medical conditions are listed.

The categories include the following: musculoskeletal system, special senses and speech, cardiovascular system, digestive system, genitourinary system, hematological disorders, skin disorders, endocrine system, impairments that affect multiple body systems, neurological, mental disorders, and malignant neoplastic disease and immune system disorders.

If your impairment is on the list and they consider it severe enough, they will consider you disabled. However, if your condition is not on the list, they will have to determine if your condition is as severe as one of the listed impairments. Once Social Security has evaluated your medical condition, they will closely examine whether or not you can perform your previous work and if not, they will consider if you can perform a significant percentage of the work you did before you were disabled. For example, if you were a receptionist and your disability doesn’t stop you from answering phones, then you more than likely wouldn’t be considered disabled enough to stop working.

Social Security will look at whether you can work at all, not just perform your old job. If you worked at a shipping plant and used to lift heavy boxes, a back injury would prevent you from anymore heavy lifting; however, a back injury wouldn’t necessarily stop you from performing clerical work or some other activity that doesn’t involve any sort of lifting.

The Social Security applications process is fairly rigid. Before applying for Social Security, you want to ask yourself, “Can I perform any type of work?" It’s important to ask yourself this question because it’s the same question that Social Security will be asking. If you truly are disabled, it’s a wise idea to enlist the services of a seasoned attorney. The process can easily take 3 or 4 months, if not longer so it’s a good idea to be fully prepared when you apply. How long it takes to process your claim will depend upon where you live and Social Security’s case load at the time. Submit all of your medical records when you initially apply, failure to do so could result in a significant time delay and a delay in payments if you are accepted.

If your application is denied, you can file for an appeal following the denial. States that don’t have an appeal counsel allow people to file a civil suit in the U.S. District Court. This is a good time to start a new Social Security application all over again. A large percentage of first-time SSDI applications are denied, especially in cases where the applicant failed to apply properly or provide all the necessary information and medical records. The best thing for you to do is to consult with a Social Security Disability attorney and find out if you have a case. From there, your attorney can help you file out the paperwork and gather all the necessary documentation. Having an attorney by your side is the best insurance you can get. With the proper preparation, the application process can go as smoothly as possible.

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