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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

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How are Decisions on SSDI and SSI Disability Claims made by SSA?

Most decisions on SSDI (social security disability insurance) and SSI (supplemental security income) disability claims are made on the basis of a medical vocational allowance. This is the "other type of award decision" that is made by the social security administration. The first is the meeting, or equaling, of the requirements of a listing in the social security administration's impairment listing manual, otherwise known as the blue book.

But satisfying a listing requirement can be fairly tough since the listing criteria is often very specific. And in the case of mental impairments, it can be difficult to actually glean the information necessary to satisfy the various levels of criteria needed to grant disability benefits for (to use an example) an affective or cognitive impairment disorder. Which is why it can be helpful when mental health treatment professionals, such as psychiatrists, provide a detailed synopsis and summary of their patient's treatment history: some will even try to submit this type of information in lieu of the actual records.

Most approval decisions that are made by disability examiners (the individuals who work to process disability claims at the initial disability application and reconsideration appeal levels) are vocational allowances because there really isn't enough information in the medical records that "jumps out at them" for a certain physical or mental condition that definitively states "yes, I satisfy this listing" (keep in mind, also, of course, that many conditions are simply not included in the social security list of impairments as well).

However, what is a medical vocational allowance? There are several components to this type of decision. This type of approval is made when the social security administration determines that the applicant cannot do their last job, or any of their past work that was performed within the last fifteen years, while earning a substantial and gainful income.

It also made when the social security administration determines that the applicant cannot do any other type of work for which their age, skills, education, and residual functional capabilities might make them suited.

Finally, this type of decision is made when the social security administration (through a disability examiner, or a judge if the case is at the hearing level) has reviewed all the medical evidence that has been gathered and it has been determined that the applicant's condition has been disabling for a period of not less than one full year.

Why does the social security administration use one year as the benchmark? It may be somewhat arbitrary, but SSA takes the position that if a person's condition has prevented them from being able to work at one of their former jobs, and has prevented (or will prevent) them from working at some form of other work for a full year, it is reliably predictive of their future situation. Even so, SSA will still require individuals who have been approved to receive disability benefits to undergo periodic reviews. These are known as CDRs, or continuing disability reviews, and they occur every few years.

Fortunately, for those who receive disability benefits, the protocol for taking someone off benefits requires that the social security administration prove that "medical improvement" has taken place. And this is is difficult to prove--meaning that most individuals who are put on disability benefits can count on them to be there in the future without interruption.

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

Related pages:

How long does it take to get a decision on Social Security disability or SSI?
What kind of Final Decision can I receive on my Disability Application?
How are Decisions on SSDI and SSI Disability Claims made by SSA?
How the Decision on a Disability Application or Appeal is Made
Who Makes The Social Security Disability Decision, A Judge Or A Caseworker?
How long does the Social Security judge take to make a decision on a case?
Will an SSI or Social Security Exam help with the Decision?
Can you get a Social Security Disability decision in under a month?
Still Waiting For My Social Security Disability Decision
The average amount of time it takes for a disability decision
Social Security Disability, SSI Decisions What Is the Rate of Approval?
Social Security On The Record Disability Decisions

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