Eligibility for Disability Benefits as Viewed by Social Security
Even when it is determined that a claimant is not currently capable of doing their former work and is not capable of switching to some other type of work, they can still be potentially denied for Social Security Disability or SSI if it is decided that their functional limitations will last less than a year.
This is where the definition of disability used by SSA (the social security administration) can be clearly seen to have an impact because the social security administration only awards disability benefits to individuals who have found to have total disability and permanent disability.
Total disability is thought to be a condition that is so severe that it effectively rules out the ability to perform substantial and gainful work activity of any kind (substantial and gainful work activity is where you earn at least a certain amount per month as seen on this page: the earnings limit for SSD and SSI).
Permanent disability is thought of by SSA as a disabling condition that might never improve but, for the purposes of approving a disability claim, must last at least one full year, or be projected to last one full year, at the time a disability claim has been decided.
To prove one's eligibility for disability benefits, either from SSD or SSI, their medical records must verify that they have a disabling condition that will be disabling for a period of not less than one full year. Therefore, a claimant who hopes to win disability benefits must provide solid medical records and if their claim is being heard by an administrative law judge at a disability hearing, either they or their disability lawyer should attempt to obtain a supporting statement from one of the claimant's treating physicians.
However, proving that you are disabled and eligible to receive Social Security Disability or SSI benefits also means proving that your current limitations make it impossible to do the work you have done in the past, and also make it impossible to do any other kind of work that might rely upon your particular job experience, as well as your level of education, and current physical and mental capacity.
This is why the social security administration asks those who are filing for disability to complete a work history questionaire. And it is also why being fully prepared for a disability hearing is essential since, on prior decisions, made at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels, disability examiners will have either misidentified a person's past jobs, or failed to consider the nature and duties of one or more of the claimant's past jobs (for example, there is a considerable difference in skill between driving a small delivery truck versus driving a tractor-trailer truck).
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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