SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
Social Security Disability and SSI Questions and Answers
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?
More questions about SSD and SSI
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
Tips for Getting Disability Approved When you File with Social Security
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
For adult applicants, Social Security Disability and SSI decisions are made based on a review of the medical evidence, as well as a review of the applicant's work history (for child disability claims replace work history with school records, and achievement and intelligence testing scores).
The purpose of reviewing the medical evidence is fairly obvious. Social Security (or, rather, the disability examiner or the administrative law judge who is making the decision on the claim) is looking to see how the condition, or conditions, affect the claimant.
In other words, what are their functional limitations, both physically and mentally? The more limited a person is, of course, the more unlikely it will be that they will be able to return to a past job, or do some type of other work.
Tip 1: Be sure to provide all known sources of medical treatment. Most claimants know that this type of information will be provided on a disability application. However, very often they fail to provide the necessary contact information for each doctor or hospital.
This may be because the claimant assumes that it will be easy for the social security administration (actually, the disability examiner) to track down their medical sources and then send requests for medical records.
However, this is not the case. Disability examiners do have a database they use to identify doctors, clinics, and hospitals, but it is by no means a complete list of all known sources of treatment.
Tip 2: Be sure to provide information regarding the most recent treatment received. A Social Security Disability or SSI approval cannot be made without recent medical evidence. SSA considers recent evidence to be evidence from treatment that has happened within the last 90 days.
The reasoning behind this is clear: without recent evidence, there is no way for social security to know if a claimant's condition is currently limiting enough to satisfy the social security administration's definition of disability.
That definition, by the way, holds that a claimant's condition must currently impose functional limitations (physical, mental, or both) that are severe enough that the individual cannot be expected to work and earn a substantial and gainful income for a period of not lesss than one full year.
Tip 3: Be sure to provide treatment information as far back as you can recall. Make sure to do this at least as far back as you are alleging that your condition, or conditions, began. While it is true that SSA cannot award disability benefits without current medical evidence, it is also true that social security cannot award the maximum amount of back pay that a claimant might potentially be eligible for without the necessary medical evidence to document the length of their illness, injury, or condition.
The purpose of reviewing a person's work history is to identify the jobs they performed and to identify the specific tasks they did on each job. Social Security uses a reference source known as the DOT, or dictionary of occupational titles, to look up each job listed by a claimant. With each job listing comes a description of the job duties, the skill requirements of the job, and the exertional requirements of the job.
Correctly, or incorrectly, matching the job title in the DOT with the information provided by the claimant when they apply for disability is critical--because even similar jobs (such as various truck driving jobs) can have very different skill and exertional requirements.
Correctly identifying a claimant's past jobs can and will have an effect on the outcome of a case and will determine whether or not a claimant is approved...or is denied on the basis of A) being able to return to their past work or B) being able to perform some type of other work.
Tip 4: Always provide detailed information about your work history when you file a claim for disability. Speaking as a former disability examiner and as someone with a history of involvement in claimant representation, I can certainly state that this is an area that many claimants tend to gloss over when they submit their disability application.
But this is not something that should be given short attention. Instead, a person filing for disability should go to lengths to correctly identify their dates of employment, the amount of time they worked each job, their job title, and, just as importantly (probably more), provide a detailed explanation of the duties performed on each job.
Return to: SSDRC, or the Social Security Disability Questions page