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How the Social Security Administration Decides if You Are Disabled

Social Security has published criteria that define disability and identify individuals eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Determining whether an applicant is disabled and thus eligible for benefits is a complex step-by- step process that asks and answers questions about a claimant and his or her disability.

1. Are You Working at All? If you worked in 2012 and earned more than $1,010 monthly, you are "working" and not eligible for disability. If you were not working, go to the next question.

2. Is Your Condition Severe Enough to Keep You From Working? Your illness or injury must prevent you from performing basic work-related activities. If you cannot work because of your condition, go to the next question.

3. Is Your Injury or Illness Listed as a Disabling Condition? The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a list of medical conditions that automatically define you as disabled. However, if your condition is not on the list, the SSA must decide whether your condition is equivalent to one of the listed conditions. After Social Security decides that you have a disabling condition, they will ask question 4.

4. Can You Do the Work You Did Before? If your medical condition is not at the same level of severity as a condition on the list, SSA must determine whether it interferes with your ability to do the work you previously did. If we find you are unable to perform your previous job, go to question 5.

5. Can You Do Any Other Kind of Work? SSA looks at your age, education, past work experience and skills. If it is determined that you cannot do other work, your claim will be approved. But if you can perform other work, your claim will be denied.

There are other criteria related to how long you worked and some special situations. However, as you can see from the questions above, simply proving that you are disabled is complicated. For help, especially if your claim is denied at any step of the process, do what many others have done and consult an advocate like those at Binder & Binder®, the National Social Security Disability Advocates. We have successfully helped thousands of people with their SSD claims, and we may be able to help you, too.

Source: SSA website, "Disability Planner: How We Decide If You Are Disabled," April 2012.

3 Comments

I would like to know if I qualify for disability, I put an application two years ago and I was denied, my question is, could reopen my case again

These are all questions that my mother uses daily at her work. There are a few other questions that need to be asked. In general these are the questions that need to be answered.

I don't think that any government or any state should make anyone wait so long to recieve their benefits especially once they have been legally declared disabled...It's very unfair and that's what causes homelessness, crime rates to go up and people tend to commit suicide as well because they've lost everything because of the time frame..When is that going to change???They never wait to take their monies out of one's paychecks and yet, they make people wait too long for their benefits..and as far as "the age factor", that needs to be gone..There is no Age limit or expectation for when unforseen circumstances occur in one's lives. things Just happen. It's unjust, and unfair to those who really need it..Please do something about these ridicuolous rules they've been using for years. this should be fair in all fifty states.

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