Social Security Disability Resource Center

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Hearings | Appeals | List of Disabling Conditions

Qualifications for Disability Benefits and the Types of Evidence Social Security Looks at

If your case is at the initial level, which simply means an application for disability benefits, then the claim will be handled by a disability examiner at an agency known as DDS, or disability determination services. The examiner will render a decision that is based primarily on the medical evidence that is obtained, but which can also be determined by other types of evidence. Those other types of evidence that are gathered and used to determine a claimant's qualifications for disability benefits will depend on whether or not the claimant is a child or an adult.

Filing for children

For a child filing for disability, the evidence will very often also involve school records. This is not just confined to grade reports but IEPs and the results of whatever specialized testing the child has been given, such as weschler intelligence tests or academic achievement tests.

In addition to this, a disability examiner will sometimes try to obtain a completed questionaire from a child's teacher or teachers. Working as a disability examiner myself, it was commonly a part of my case development process to send out a questionaire to each of a child's teacher's simply because A) not all of them would respond and B) as with every disability case, the more information in hand the better the odds of making a good decision which would, hopefully, lead to a disability case being approved (and with as much back pay as possible for the claimant).

Filing for adults

For an adult who is filing for disability, medical records will really constitute the bulk of the evidence. And this would include admission and discharge summaries from hospitals, as well as reports of testing (blood work, diagnostic tests, specialized exams such as neurological examinations, and imaging reports for CT, PET, and MRI scans), and progress notes from individual doctors.

Note: Though hospitals will often send additional medical records such as nurse's notes, these are typically of no use since, as far as the social security administration is concerned, evidence is only valid when it bears the authority of a licensed physician (meaning the signature).

Having said this, though, an adult claim will also require a disability examiner to review the claimant's work history. This is because a decision for a social security disability claim or an SSI disability claim for an adult will ordinarily be what is known as a medical vocational decision.

In short, this means that whether or not a person will be awarded disability benefits as an adult will depend on whether or not they can still, in light of their condition and the mental and/or physical limitations that exist as a result of their condition, engage in work activity. This includes, as most people would guess, their last job. But it also includes potentially any job they have worked in what SSA refers to as the relevant period. And the relevant period goes back 15 years from the time that a person alleges that they became disabled. In addition to this, whether or not a person will be awarded disability benefits will be determined by whether or not they have the ability to do some type of other work

Who qualifies for disability as an adult? These are individuals who are found to no longer have the ability to engage in work activity, either at a job they have done in the last 15 years, or at some new type of work that they might be able to logically switch to (assuming they were not disabled).

At this point, it might seem that the qualifications for disability benefits are extraordinarily hard. However, the process is made easier by the fact that a person's available job opportunities will be taken into consideration when their claim is processed. And what jobs are available to a person will be viewed in light of their education, skills, age, and, especially, the level of physical or mental restrictions (i.e. functional limitations) that they have as a result of their various impairments.

This, of course, is why it is so important for social security to be made aware of all the medical treatment sources that a person has gone to in recent months--as well as several years back--because the more evidence that a disability examiner has the more accurately they can rate a claimant's functional limitations. Which might then lead to the conclusion that they cannot engage in work activity.

  • 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

    The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work

    Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

    Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    More Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    Common Questions about Social Security Disability and SSI

    Winning Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    The SSI Disability Benefits Program

    Medical exams for disability claims

    Applying for Disability in various states

    Social Security Disability SSI and Doctors - Yours and Theirs

    Social Security Disability and SSI Claim Reviews

    Social Security Disability SSI System and Benefits for Children

    Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative

    What you should know about Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

    Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney

    Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits

    FAQ on Disability Claim Representation

    Disability hearings before Judges

    Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers

    Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits

    Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability

    Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits for Children

    Disability Benefits through Social Security

    Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records

    Filing your claim for disability benefits

    Eligibility for receiving disability benefits

    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

    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:

    Qualifications for Disability Benefits
    SSI disability qualifications for Adults and Children
    Permanent Disability Qualifications for SSD and SSI
    Social Security Disability And SSI Qualifications - What is the examiner looking for?
    Social Security Disability Attorney Qualifications and Expenses
    What are the disability qualifications in North Carolina?
    Getting SSDI but making too much money
    Would I eligible for SSD since I was disabled at the time I stopped working?

    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