Social Security Disability Resource Center

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Requirements | How long it takes | Back Pay
Mental Disability | What is a disability? | Tips
SSI Benefits | How to Win | Disability Awards
Hearings | Appeals | List of Disabling Conditions

How will Social Security Determine if you get Disability Benefits?

When the social security administration assesses one's eligibility for disability benefits, it doesn't look so much at the condition, but, instead, at the functional limitations that are caused by the condition.

After those functional limitations (which can be mental or physical or both) are rated on something known as an RFC, or residual functional capacity, form, then the limitations are viewed against the requirements of whatever past work the claimant did. If the decision is made that the claimant cannot return to their past work, then the decision is made as to whether or not they can do some type of other work.

Again, the claimant's rated mental or physical limitations are used to make the decision. However, in the case of deciding whether or not a person can do other work, the social security administration will also consider various factors which will, logically, have an impact on a person's ability to switch off to new employment, such as how old they are, their level of education, and the level of their job skills, taking into consideration if those skills will transfer to other types of jobs.

The decision on a disability claim boils down to what a person can do--or can no longer do. Though we usually refer to the decisons issued by judges and examiners as medical decisions, this is really just half of the explanation because the decision is really medical and vocational in nature.

This is because the fundamental question is: Can the person still work? And the subsets to this are: Can they still do one of their old jobs? If not, can they can do some other job?

This is exactly why the condition you have is not the most important thing. It is really the effect the condition has on your ability to work. And this is measured by --

1. Reviewing your medical records to see how limited you are.

2. Reviewing your work history to see what you did in the past, and what skills you have.

The process is actually pretty plain, but what you need to do is make sure that SSA has access to all your medical records. Be sure to give them all your medical treatment sources. That includes your current ones and older ones. This is because SSA needs to determine if you are currently disabled, but they also need to determine how far back your disability goes so that they can determine how much disability back pay you may be eligible to receive.

Also, be sure to give them good descriptions of your past jobs, including job titles and explanations of what you did on the job. This is because SSA will try to identify your job and use the information in the federal database (currently the DOT, or dictionary of occupational titles) to understand what you did on your job. Obviously, this information will be used to see if you have the physical and mental capability of going back to your old employment, or have the skills to do something else.

Repeat: giving social security an accurate and detailed description of your past work is very important as it can help you get approved sooner versus later. In actuality, there are many many disability cases that drag on needlessly for many months simply because a claimant did not supply the information that could have helped a decision maker on a case approve the claim.

And, in reality, this is sometimes the chief benefit of having representation on a social security claim. A good representative will help ensure that the case is developed properly and that obvious mistakes are not made.

  • What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

  • What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

  • Which conditions will social security recognize as a disability?

  • Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

  • SSDRC Homepage:

    Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center

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    The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration

    Resources on this site

    Social Security Disability, SSI Terms and Definitions

    Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

    For Individuals living in North Carolina

    Applying for Disability in North Carolina

    North Carolina Disability Lawyer

    Related pages:

    How Does A Social Security Disability Examiner Determine a Personís Functional Limitations?
    How does Social Security determine if I am disabled or not?
    How are medical records and work history used to determine a social security disability claim?
    How will Social Security Determine if you get Disability Benefits?
    How to go back on disability after trying to work again
    Can you draw Social Security Disability on a spouse's Social Security earnings record?
    Getting a Disability Lawyer in Georgia
    Denied Disability Appeal Georgia

    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