Social Security disability was designed for U.S. citizens whose injury or illness physically or mentally limits their ability to work for at least one year. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a strict definition of "disability" that focuses primarily on an applicant's inability to work. According to the SSA, you will be considered disabled if:
- You cannot do work that you did before
- The SSA determines you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition; and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or until death
This strict definition was developed to ensure that injured individuals with a long term disability have access to the financial assistance and resources they need. Unlike support for short-term disabilities, such as workers' compensation, Social Security disability pays only for total disability. This means that no benefits are payable for partial disability or for short term disability.
There are numerous criteria, procedures and laws that dictate how disability and physical impairment will be determined. The Social Security Administration will thoroughly evaluate your medical condition and documentation of your medical condition in order to decide whether you meet their definition of disabled. The SSA uses a step by step process, including the following five questions:
Are you working?
This first question is essential in determining your level of physical impairment. While many injured applicants are unable to work, some may find it possible or a necessity to obtain income of some sort. If you are able to work, you may still be considered disabled as long as your average monthly earnings do not exceed more than $1,010 a month.
Is your impairment or condition severe?
The SSA will then evaluate your medical condition as it relates to your ability to work. In order for your claim to be considered, your physical condition, be it an injury or illness, must interfere with basic work related activities.
Is your condition in the list of disabling conditions?
The SSA maintains a list of medical conditions that are so severe enough to automatically warrant disability. These can include conditions that affect your cardiovascular system, digestive system, respiratory system, paralysis and mental disorders, among others. Most of these conditions, such as paraplegia, are considered permanent disabilities. If your physical impairment is in the list of disabling conditions, you meet the physical impairment and disability requirements. If your impairment or condition is not listed, the SSA must determine if it is of equal severity to a medical condition on the list.
Does your condition prevent you from working your job?
In order to determine the extent and severity of your physical impairment, the SSA will focus on your condition and how it affects your ability to work your previous job. If your medical condition interferes with your ability to do the work you previously did, your claim may still be eligible.
Can you do other types of work?
The last question is for individuals whose physical impairment is severe enough to prevent them from working the job they once had. When this is the case, the SSA will consider your medical condition, age, education, work experience and other skills to determine if you can adjust to other types of work. If they determine that you can adjust, your claim will be denied.
Disability determination is the initial stage for claims during the SSD process. Also one of the most difficult and highly selective steps in the process, disability determination is typically conducted by Disability Determination Services (DDS), a government agency with numerous field office locations. The DDS will make the final disability determination using either documentation of your medical condition or information they obtained through their own medical examinations. In order to greatly reduce your risk of being denied SSD benefits or having to appeal your claim, it is highly recommended that you have an experienced attorney from our firm assist you during this stage.
Work With Shook & Stone
Although the Social Security Administration upholds a strict definition of disability and has many procedures and criteria for determining the severity of physical impairment, there is still a fair amount of subjectivity during claims. As a result, the success of your claim ultimately depends on strong presentation and ample support and evidence of your physical impairment. With 85 years of combined experience, our attorneys have the experience, skills and insight into the SSA's process of determining physical impairment to help you successfully complete the claim process.
You can be confident that our attorney's will closely evaluate your case, determine your eligibility and chances or being accepted and work toward intelligently supporting your claim and medical condition in preparation for a successful outcome. If you would like to learn more about the SSD process and how your physical impairment will affect your claim, fill out a free case evaluation form or contact Shook & Stone today.