Topic Categories:

Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Requirements for Disability

Applications for disability

Tips and Advice for Disability Claims

How long does Disability take?

Winning Disability Benefits

Common Mistakes after a Denial

Mental Disability Benefits

Denials for Disability

Appeals for denied claims

Disability Benefits from SSA

SSI Benefits

Child Disability Benefits

Qualifications and How to Qualify

Working and Disability

Disability Awards and Notices

Disability Lawyers, Hiring Attorneys

Social Security List of Conditions

What Social Security considers disabling

Medical Evidence and Disability

Filing for Disability Benefits

Eligibility for Disability Benefits

SSD SSI Definitions

Ask a question, get an answer

Qualifying for Disability - What is Social Security Looking for?

Qualifying for disability is based on a decision that is both vocational and medical in nature and this is because the primary consideration is whether or not a person still has the ability to work and earn a substantial and gainful income.

Your work history will be supplied by you and this should be detailed and clear. Your medical records, however, may not be so clear simply because the information that the social security administration is looking for is often not contained in your medical records.

What is social security looking for in medical record documentation? Evidence of limitations. For example, if you have a back condition, you may have difficulty with bending or crouching, or standing or sitting for prolonged periods. You may also have difficulty picking up objects over a certain weight.

You may further have difficulty with normal daily activities such as carrying groceries or operating a lawn mower or a vacuum cleaner. These types of limitations are reasonably expected when a person has disc herniation, spinal arthritis, or degenerative disc disease.

However, SSA (the social security administration) will not presume that a person has certain limitations simply because they have a certain condition. Ideally, the claimant's limitations should be notated in the medical records obtained from a claimant's doctor, or doctors. Unfortunately, most doctors do not include this type of information in their notes. It is simply not what they consider to be part of their normal documentation.

That said, clear evidence of limitations is exactly what SSA needs in order to approve a disability claim. Without evidence of physical and mental limitations being clearly indicated in the available medical records, the disability examiner or administrative law judge will have no choice but to extrapolate, i.e. make their best determination. It should go without saying that this is often to the disadvantage of the claimant.

How can this deficiency be overcome? This is often accomplished by obtaining a statement from the claimant's physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist (depending on the nature of the impairment).

The following page discusses the type of statement that is typically obtained for a disability hearing. This statement is usually referred to as a medical source statement or residual functional capacity form.

Such a form, completed by a physician who has a history of providing treatment to a claimant (and is therefore qualified to speak with regard to the claimant's prognosis and current limitations), may be submitted to the social security administration at earlier steps of the process.

However, disability examiners very often do not accord much weight to the opinion of a treating physician, while administrative law judges will generally give proper consideration to such statements as long as they are also supported by the remainder of the medical record.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

Who qualifies for disability? - Qualifying is based on evidence of functional limitations
How to qualify for disability - The Process of Qualifying for Benefits
To qualify for Social Security disability or SSI, how severe must a condition be?
Can You Qualify for Disability if you did not work much?
How Do You Qualify For Disability without Money To Go To the Doctor?
The Qualification Criteria for Social Security Disability
What If You Did Not Work Long Enough To Qualify For Disability?
Qualifying for disability benefits with the social security administration
Qualifying for Disability - What is Social Security Looking for?
Do You Qualify For Social Security Disability Insurance?
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?
Do You Have To Qualify For SSI Financially?
How does work qualify you for disability? (work credits)

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria