Overview of Disability

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How long do cases take?

How to win Disability

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Disability for Mental

What if you get denied?

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Working and Disability

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Disability Conditions List

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SSDRC Disability Blog

Does Social Security Depend on Your Illness or the kind of Work that You Did?

Disability examiners take into account both your level of illness and the type of work you have performed in the past when deciding a claim for Social security disability or SSI benefits

There is no specific illness guaranteed to qualify you for disability, because examiners do not focus on the specific symptoms or limitations but rather on how these symptoms prevent the claimant from performing current or past work, or any other work.

Because disability examiners rely so heavily on medical records and past work to make their decisions, it is very important provide specific and accurate information on both the medical history and work history that you provide with your initial application.

Even if you have been under a physician’s care for many years, do not assume that your medical records will be enough to be approved for disability, because often they are not. Although physician notes usually include the initial diagnosis and information about your symptoms and how they have progressed (prognosis), they are rarely specific as to how these symptoms impact your ability to work. They are created by physicians for themselves and for other physicians who need to understand your medical needs.

Unlike physicians, a disability examiner’s job is not to treat your illness, but to determine if you are ill enough to prevent you from participating in substantial gainful work activity (which basically means earning a certain amount each month: Current SGA limit amount).

Thus, having your physician complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) statement for your case could really strengthen your claim. An RFC rating can be a typed or handwritten statement or a form that is a simple check-off list indicating the activities a patient can or cannot perform. The term residual functional capacity is used by Social Security to refer to physical or mental limitations an applicant for disability faces due to his or her level of illness.

The type of work you did in the past can definitely affect the examiner’s decision, depending on your illness. For instance, if you have always performed physically demanding labor in the past, the inability to lift, crouch, stoop, stand for long periods of time, etc., could prevent you from performing your past work or any other similar type of work.

Likewise, if you have always worked in jobs that require a high degree of cognitive functioning and suddenly lose the capacity to concentrate due to a mental or physical illness, you might qualify for SSD or SSI disability benefits based on the fact that you cannot perform past jobs or any other work that requires these skills.

In general though, educated individuals, those with a history of working at less physically demanding jobs, and those with a higher level of job skills have a harder time getting approved for disability. These people are usually determined to be more capable of finding, or being trained for other types of employment. But this is not to say that someone in a position like this cannot win a disability claim. It will usually mean a hearing, however, involving a an attorney who presents a prepared case before a federal administrative law judge.

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

Related pages:

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?
Will having a terminal illness guarantee an approval for Social Security Disability or SSI?
Can I Receive More Social Security Disability If I Get Another Condition Or Illness?
Criteria used by disability examiners to make a decision on a case
How are Decisions on SSDI and SSI Disability Claims made by SSA?
Social Security Disability, SSI Decisions – What Is the Rate of Approval?
What is the time frame for a judge to make a decision for a disability hearing?
How long does the administrative law judge take to make a decision on an SSD or SSI disability case?
The Time Involved on a Social Security Disability Decision
Social Security Disability, back pain, and sedentary, light, and medium work

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