Social Security Disability Definitions
Social Security Disability and SSI Overview
The Requirements for Disability
Social Security Disability and SSI Applications
Tips and Advice for Disability Claims
How long does Disability take?
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Disability Denial
Disability Denials and Filing Appeals
Social Security Mental Disability Benefits
Disability Benefits offered through Social Security
Benefits through SSI disability
Disability Benefits for Children
Disability Qualifications and How to Qualify
Social Security Disability and Working
Winning your Disability Benefits
Social Security Back Pay and the disability award notice
Disability Lawyers and Hiring an Attorney
Social Security Disability SSI List of Conditions
What is considered a Disabling condition by Social Security?
Social Security Disability SSI and Medical Evidence
Filing for Disability Benefits
Eligibility for Disability Benefits
SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
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Qualifying for Disability - What is Social Security Looking for?
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
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
Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions
Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The Disability Decision Process and What gets taken into Consideration | Getting Denied for Disability Benefits | Questions about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | Social Security Disability Hearings | Social Security Medical Examinations | Social Security SSI Doctors | Social Security Disability Representation | Social Security Disability SSI Reviews