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How does the Social Security Administration decide if I am “disabled” and eligible to receive disability benefits?

The Social Security Administration is a huge entity and when it comes to their guidelines for approval of benefits, there is boatload of written material as well.  The Social Security state that person is “under a disability” if his or her “physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that they are not only unable to do their previous work but cannot, considering their age, education and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.” In applying this definition to your application for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration will consider the following five factors, in order:

Are you presently employed?

Well, if you are working right now, your case for disability might be a little harder to prove. Under the Social Security Administration guidelines, if you are working at “substantial gainful employment,” then you are not disabled, no matter how severe your impairment is. “Substantial gainful employment” is work that requires a decent amount of physical or mental activity and is “the kind of work usually done for pay or profit, even if a profit is not realized.” Simply said, typically, if you are working at a job that requires more basic duties and you earn more than $1,000 per month at that job, then the SSA will find that you are not disabled.

Do you have a “severe physical or mental impairment”?

You must have a “medically determinable impairment” that is so severe that it prevents you from working. A “medically determinable impairment” is a condition that is diagnosed by a doctor and/or supported by objective medical evidence. An impairment that has only a slight effect on your ability to work is not a “severe” impairment. In addition, a “severe” impairment is one that is expected to result in death or to last for a continuous period of 12 months.

Do you qualify under the Listing of Impairments?

The Listing of Impairments is a set of medical criteria for disability found in the Social Security regulations. The Listing impairments are so severe that if your condition “meets or equals” a Listing impairment, then the Social Security Administration will determine that you are disabled by the existence of your medical impairment alone.

Can you perform work you have performed in the past?

When your claim for disability benefits cannot be decided just your medical factors alone. The Social Security Administration will continue its determination of your claim by considering your ability to perform “past relevant work.” In making its evaluation, the Social Security Administration will compare your current ability to work, or “residual functional capacity,” to the mental and physical demands of your easiest job. If SSA determines that you are able to do any work that you have done in the last 15 years, then it will find you are not disabled.

Can you perform any other type of work?

If the answer the above question, is “no,” then the Social Security Administration will ask, “Can you perform any other job that exists in t significant numbers in the national economy?” In short, the SSA decision maker will take into consideration your age, education, work experience and current ability to work, despite your disability.

How Our Norfolk Disability Lawyers Can Help

At Kalfus & Nachman PC, we've helped hundreds of people get the disability help they are entitled to. The process of applying for early Social Security Disability benefits can be long and frustrating. Without legal help, it can take up to 2 ½ years to get benefits. Hiring Kalfus & Nachman PC to help you receive these benefits can significantly lessen this waiting period. We have solid experience and understand complicated federal regulations governing Social Security Disability claims. We'll help you get through the system to get the benefits you need. Call us today!

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