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
What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
The decision on your disability case--either a disability award or a denial of your claim--will be made on the basis of three types of evidence:
1. Medical evidence - This includes all the records that are obtained by the social security administration from your treatment providers, including admission and discharge summaries, reports of bloodwork, imaging (CT scans, xrays, PET scans, and MRI scans), and the notes made by your specific doctors, particularly the doctor who would be considered your treating physician. If your claim is based on a mental disorder, of course, your psychiatrist would be considered your treating physician.
Medical evidence, at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels, is generally confined to just medical records. However, at the social security hearing level, it usually includes (assuming the claimant's disability attorney or disability representative is competent and experienced) a statement from the treating physician on something known as an residual functional capacity form or medical source statement.
2. Work history or Academic performance information - For adults who are attempting to qualify for disability, the second area of information that will come under consideration will be related to their work history. What this essentially means is that a disability examiner will review the claimant's relevant work history (jobs worked in the prior fifteen years) and try to determine if the claimant has the ability to go back to one of those jobs, or perform some type of other work based on their various skills and training.
For children whose parents are filing for SSI disability for them, work history, obviously, is not an issue. But the child's ability to engage in age-appropriate activities is. And, therefore, social security will evaluate how the child is performing in school. This will mean that a disability examiner will try to obtain school records, reports of academic achievement testing and IQ testing, and sometimes questionaires completed by the child's teachers.
3. Information about the claimant's ADLs, or activities of daily living - Normal daily activities are considered by SSA (the social security administration) to provide insight into whether or not a person can engage in work activity (or, for children, age-appropriate activities).
For example, if a person has degenerative disc disease, it would be normal to expect that they might have difficulty remaining in one type of standing or sitting position for very long, or difficult bending or crouching, or lifting objects above a certain weight. If their prior employment required them to engage in these types of physical activities, they may no longer have the ability to return to that type of job, or do any other type of job that utilizes such activities.
The question becomes, how will the social security administration know if an individual has a certain type of limitation, or set of limitations? Simply being diagnosed with a certain impairment is generally not proof, in and of itself. And while medical records provide the bulk of the evidence used on a case, very often the records recorded by physicians do not make mention of specific physical limitations or mental limitations.
For this reason, then, disability examiners will usually contact a claimant and ask them about their normal daily activities. They may do this by sending out a questionaire for the claimant to complete and return, or they may call the claimant directly. They may also (and often do) contact an individual who knows the claimant-called a third-party contact person-and this person is usually supplied at the time the claimant files for disability.
Continued at: Part II: What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?
Return to: SSDRC, or the Social Security Disability Questions page