How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

How does Social Security Disability decide that you cannot work?

How does social security decide whether your can work or not? By evaluating your medical evidence, rating how limited you are, and then comparing this rating to the kind of work you did in the past. By using this sequential evaluation process, the social security administration can decide if you are capable of returning to one of the jobs you performed within the fifteen year period prior to becoming disabled, or whether or not you are capable of doing some type of other work that you have never done before.

In terms of physical RFC ratings, a claimant may be given a sedentary RFC, meaning they can only do sedentary work, a light RFC, meaning that they are considered incapable of doing anything other than light capacity work, or they may be given a medium RFC, meaning they can only do medium exertional work and nothing more.

RFC ratings can also rule out certain activities that the medical evidence of record suggests they can no longer do. For instance, an RFC may indicate that a person cannot have exposure to chemical agents, cannot use their hands for tasks requiring high dexterity, cannot tolerate heights (possibly due to vertigo or lower back problems, or seizure disorder), or cannot engage in activities that rely heavily on using a particular sense, such as sight or smell, or hearing.

In terms of mental RFC capacity ratings, the RFC determination may indicate that the claimant's capacity for work activity may be compromised by shortcomings in memory, shortcomings in the ability to attend to tasks and concentrate, shortcomings in the ability to learn new information and tasks and transmit information to others in the work environment, and shortcomings in the claimant's ability get along with co-workers or supervisors.

How are RFC ratings used? They are first compared to the past work of the claimant and what those individual jobs required (in terms of physical requirements and mental requirements). If the RFC rating indicates that the claimant no longer possesses the ability to do their former work, they will have passed one step of the disability evaluation process.

The next step is to evaluate whether or not the claimant has the ability to do some type of "other work" based on their age, work skills (and whether or not these skills are transferrable), and education. If the claimant, through their various RFC restrictions-limitations, is found to be unable to do their past work and is also found to be unable to do some type of other work, they will receive a Social Security Disability award, or an SSI award, depending on which program their claim was filed in.

Disability examiners make decisions on cases at the first two steps of the Social Security Disability system: the initial disability application, and the request for reconsideration appeal. The third step of the system (which is also the second appeal in the system) is the hearing. To get to a hearing you have to file a "request for hearing before an administrative law judge". Administrative law judges, or ALJs, of course, are the individuals who make decisions at this level of appeal.

How do disability hearings and administrative law judges differ from other levels of appeal and from disability examiners? Judges for one thing tend to approve higher percentages of claims. This may be because claimants usually have disability representation in the form of a lawyer or a non-attorney disability advocate. It may also be because ALJs work somewhat independently and are free of the culture of denial that seems to permeate the state disability agencies where disability examiners work.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related pages:

Social Security Disability, SSI, and Residual Functional Capacity, RFC
How does a Medical Source Statement (RFC Form) help win a Social Security Disability or SSI Claim?
How does Social Security Disability decide that you cannot work?
Social Security Disability SSI - Mental and Physical Residual Functional Capacity
Medical Vocational Allowance Approvals for Social Security Disability and SSI
Social Security Disability Medical Evaluation Form, Can A Doctor Be Forced to Complete One?
The Social Security Disability Decision and Your Ability to Work
Will my doctor charge me for a letter for my Social Security Disability claim?

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

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?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.