Can I Qualify for Disability?

Proving Disability

Once an individual establishes that their work history or financial status will allow them to claim benefits, they must begin the process of proving that they have a severe physical or mental impairment that has lasted for twelve months, is expected to do so or is expected to result in death.  Medical records are crucial when establishing disability.  When an individual claims disability, they select their Alleged Onset Date, which is the date that they became disabled.  From this date forward, the Claimant must be able to show that they are disabled using medical records, mental health treatment records, hospital emergency room records, therapy records, and mental health records.  In addition to treatment records, letters of support or medical source statements from your treating physicians are very valuable if your doctors will provide these.  Having continuous care, and abiding by doctor’s orders is very helpful when proving disability.  Social Security may send you to their physicians or counselor for evaluation, but relying on those evaluations alone when proving your case is a mistake.

The Application Process

Though both programs require a finding of disability, the application process for Disability is different than SSI.  A claimant may apply for Disability benefits online if they are age 18 or older, are not currently receiving benefits on their Social Security record, are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death, and have not been denied disability benefits in the last 60 days.  SSI Claimants generally must apply in person at their local office unless they are between the ages of 18 and 65, have never been married, aren’t blind, are a U.S. citizen residing in one of the fifty states, District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands, haven’t applied for or received SSI benefits in the past, are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance at the same time as their SSI claim.

SSA’s Five-Step Analysis of Disability

Social Security follows a five step process when deciding whether or not you are disabled.  This is the portion of the analysis that is conducted after Social Security has established that your work history meets disability standards, or your income and resources are below the prescribed limits.  Several of these steps use terminology that has very specific implications for your disability case.

1.  If you are doing substantial gainful activity, the SSA will find that you are not disabled.

2.  If you do not have a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment (or severe combination of impairments) that has lasted for 12 months (or is expected to do so or result in death) the SSA will find that you are not disabled.

3.  If you have an impairment(s) that meets or equals a Listed Impairment and that has lasted for 12 months (or is expected to do so), the SSA will find that you are disabled.

4.  If you have the residual functional capacity to perform your past relevant work, the SSA will find that you are not disabled.

5.  If you can make an adjustment to other work based on your residual functional capacity, age, education, and prior work experience, the SSA will find you are not disabled. If you cannot make an adjustment to other work, the SSA will award disability.

Where is my nearest Social Security office?

The Social Security Administration runs local offices in cities all over the United States.  Visiting your local office can be a lengthy experience, so if at all possible, use Social Security’s online portal or seek assistance from an experienced advocate.  To find your closest Social Security office by using your zip code, please click here.