Social Security Disability Resource Center

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Requirements | How long it takes | Back Pay
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SSI Benefits | How to Win | Disability Awards
Hearings | Appeals | List of Disabling Conditions

How Will Social Security Decide a Disability Case that's filed?

All Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cases are decided based on the medical evidence supplied, either by the claimant or the claimantís legal representative, to the social security administration.

It canít be stressed enough, really, how important it is for a claimant to take the time to put together a medical history that supplies all of the medical facilities at which he or she has received treatment, including names of treating physicians, addresses, and accurate phone numbers.

This may take some extra time and calling around before filing the initial claim, but putting down that you received treatment ďat the cardiac treatment center on the west sideĒ is not really all that helpful to a disability examiner when it comes to tracking down your records.

To reiterate: If you donít provide accurate contact information to the examiner, you will delay your case for weeks, even months, or your treatment records may not be located at all, which could mean the difference between being awarded disability or being turned down altogether.

What types of medical evidence can help you win disability benefits? The answer to this question is, potentially anything and everything. Doctorís notes, records of being admitted and discharged from hospitals and emergency rooms, and above all, any detailed statements from your treating physician that supply information as to your residual functional capacity (the actions you are able to perform despite your medical condition), will help a disability examiner or judge evaluate your claim.

This goes as well for any disability claims made on the basis of mental conditions as wellóany psychiatric records, admittance and discharge from medical facilities, evaluations, and treatment summaries provided by your psychiatrist are very important to your case.

How does a disability examiner (an employee of the state disability determination services agency who makes SSD/SSI decisions for the federal social security administration) use medical evidence to evaluate a claim? The examiner will look over all of the medical records and make notes on any medical diagnoses, lab reports, x-rays, CT scans, spirometry (pulmonary functioning) tests, etc., and decide if the records support the claim of an impairment, and if that impairment meets the criteria of a listing in the blue book (a manual that lists medical conditions that the social security administration deems potentially disabling).

If the examiner determines that the claimant has a condition that is not listed in the blue book, or has a condition in the blue book but does not present with all of the symptoms required to be approved for that listing (itís hard to meet all of the criteria necessary to qualify for a listing as they are very specific), then the examiner will decide if a medical vocational allowance should be granted to the claimant.

The medical vocational allowance, or Med-voc, is awarded to those with documented medical conditions that, although not specifically listed in the blue book, still prevent an individual from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA equates to a monthly gross income limit on how much a person can earn and still be eligible to receive, or apply, for disability benefits. So if your condition prevents you from earning more than that, you may qualify for a medical vocational allowance, i.e. a disability approval.

To see the current limit: SGA earnings limit.

Medical vocational allowances often hinge on statements from a treating physician regarding a patientís residual functional capacity as well as the physicianís opinion about your chances of recovery in the future, or the likely progression of your illness.

If your physician backs up the claim that you cannot perform your current job, then the disability examiner, before awarding a medical vocational allowance, will try to determine if you could perform some past work, or other type of work. The examiner will use a vocational grid to make this determination, which is designed to ensure that examiners in all states take into consideration a claimantís job skills, past work, education and age before suggesting other employment to which he or she may be suited.

When it comes to disability claims that are awarded on the basis of medical vocational allowances, a complete work history can be as important as complete medical history. Again, do not cut corners when you supply your work history with your initial application. List not only past jobs and any titles you have held, but also your specific duties, so that there is no guesswork on the part of the examiner as to what you are or are not capable of doing. Also, list good contact information for your past supervisors so that they can confirm your employment and the capacity in which you acted while in your position.

If at any point in the process you have new information that is relative to your case, be it new test results, medication, treatments, or diagnosis, be sure to supply it to your social security office immediately so that a disability examiner will consider it when deciding your case.

  • 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

    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
    What is the top amount SSI pays?
    If Social Security doctors agree you are disabled do you get SSDI?
    What happens when you get approved for SSI?