What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
How do you Win Benefits under Social Security Disability or SSI?
If I am determined disabled, how far back will Social Security pay benefits?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?
What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Winning Disability Benefits
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Denial of Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits
How to File for Disability - Tips for Filing
If You Get Approved For SSDI Will You Also Get Medicare?
How much does a Social Security disability attorney get paid?
Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
Answers to questions about SSD and SSI disability
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
Social Security Disability, SSI Disability - Terms, Definitions, Concepts
Does Social Security Depend on Your Illness or the kind of Work that You Did?
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
Disability examiners take into account both your level of illness and the type of work you have performed in the past when deciding a claim for social security disability or SSI benefits.
There is no specific illness guaranteed to qualify you for disability, because examiners do not focus on the specific symptoms or limitations but rather on how these symptoms prevent the claimant from performing current or past work, or any other work.
Because disability examiners rely so heavily on medical records and past work to make their decisions, it is very important provide specific and accurate information on both the medical history and work history that you provide with your initial application.
Even if you have been under a physician’s care for many years, do not assume that your medical records will be enough to be approved for disability, because often they are not. Although physician notes usually include the initial diagnosis and information about your symptoms and how they have progressed (prognosis), they are rarely specific as to how these symptoms impact your ability to work. They are created by physicians for themselves and for other physicians who need to understand your medical needs.
Unlike physicians, a disability examiner’s job is not to treat your illness, but to determine if you are ill enough to prevent you from participating in substantial gainful work activity (which basically means earning a certain amount each month: Current SGA limit amount).
Thus, having your physician complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) statement for your case could really strengthen your claim. An RFC rating can be a typed or handwritten statement or a form that is a simple check-off list indicating the activities a patient can or cannot perform. The term residual functional capacity is used by Social Security to refer to physical or mental limitations an applicant for disability faces due to his or her level of illness.
The type of work you did in the past can definitely affect the examiner’s decision, depending on your illness. For instance, if you have always performed physically demanding labor in the past, the inability to lift, crouch, stoop, stand for long periods of time, etc., could prevent you from performing your past work or any other similar type of work. Likewise, if you have always worked in jobs that require a high degree of cognitive functioning and suddenly lose the capacity to concentrate due to a mental or physical illness, you might qualify for disability benefits based on the fact that you cannot perform past jobs or any other work that requires these skills.
In general though, educated individuals, those with a history of working at less physically demanding jobs, and those with a higher level of job skills have a harder time getting approved for disability. These people are usually determined to be more capable of finding, or being trained for other types of employment. But this is not to say that someone in a position like this cannot win a disability claim. It will usually mean a hearing, however, involving a an attorney who presents a prepared case before a federal administrative law judge.
Return to: SSDRC, or the Questions, Answers, Tips, and Advice page
Individual Questions and Answers
SSD and SSI are Federal Programs
The title II Social Security Disability and title 16 SSI Disability programs operate under federal guidelines and, therefore, the program requirements--medical and non-medical--apply to all states:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Recent approval and denial statistics for various states can be viewed here:
Social Security Disability, SSI Approval and Denial Statistics by state
Special Section: Disability Lawyers and unnecessary claim denials