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
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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
If my medical condition keeps me from working will I get Social Security disability ?
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
Certainly, one criteria of Social Security disability (and SSI) eligibility is that you must be unable to work at any meaningful level for a period of not less than twelve months, which is the minimum duration length in order to be determined "disabled".
Note: for the social security administration, working at a meaningful level means working at the SGA, or substantial gainful activity level. SGA is an earnings limit that applies to anyone who is working and filing for disability or working and receiving disability benefits (To see the current SGA limit for work activity: How much can you earn and receive disability benefits?).
The ability or inability to engage in work activity is a huge consideration when it comes to determining eligibility for social security disability or SSI benefits. However, the simple fact that a person is not working or has not worked for some time does not automatically guarantee that they will be medically allowed (another way of saying "approved") for Social Security or SSI disability. All applicants must go through the Social Security disability medical determination process to determine if their condition or conditions meet the medical disability criteria set by Social Security. This process is essentially the same regardless of whether a claim is being decided by a disability examiner at the initial claim or reconsideration appeal level, or by an ALJ (federal administrative law judge) at the disability hearing level.
What is involved in the disability determination process? The process involves a review of a claimant's medical records and work history and is designed to answer the following questions:
1. Does the individual have a severe impairment versus a non-severe impairment?
2. Will the individual's impairment or impairments (which can be mental or physical in nature) be severe enough to make it impossible for them to work at a substantial and gainful level (meaning that they will be unable to work and earn what is considered to be SGA-level income) at:
A) Potentially any job they have done in the past
B) At any other type of work for which they might be vocationally suited (based on education, age, skills, and current physical and mental limitations) for at least one full year.
How does the social security administration's disability evaluation process answer these questions? The process begins with the adjudicator (depending on the level of the claim, this will be a disability examiner or a judge) gathering the claimant's medical records. These will be reviewed so that the claimant's current limitations can be rated. Rating a person's physical and mental limitations is part of the process because this allows the adjudicator to determine if the claimant can go back to one of their past jobs. And, of course, to make this determination, the adjudicator will not only need to review the claimant's medical records, but their work history as well.
In either case, the disability examiner or the disability judge will rely heavily on the information provided by the claimant. For instance, the claimant's medical records from a particular doctor or medical treatment source cannot be obtained if the claimant does not provide the correct name and contact information for the doctor or facility when they initially file for disability.
Likewise, the adjudicator cannot be expected to accurately determine if the claimant has the ability or inability to return to a past job or switch to some new type of employment if the claimant has not provided a proper job title and description for their past jobs.
Note: accurate job descriptions are essential because the examiner will, as part of the disability determination process, be required to identify the claimant's jobs in a reference source that lists the duties of the job as well as the requirements of the job)
In the final analysis, the answer to the question we began with is, yes, if an individual's medical condition keeps them from working, and they, therefore, meet the social security definition of disability, they will be approved for disability benefits by the social security administration.
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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