How does Social Security Decide that You Get Disability?

| June 24, 2015

The process of applying for Social Security Disability Insurance is not a straightforward one. Each person’s application for benefits is reviewed according to the subjective beliefs and impressions of the medical consultants and examiners who are assigned to your case. Here is a brief overview of the five-step determination process that will be imposed on your initial SSDI application:family-333064_1280

Substantial Gainful Activity

Regardless of how difficult it is for you to earn a living, the SSA (Social Security Administration) will first look to see whether you are earning at least $1,090 per month. If you are, then your application will be denied regardless of what kind of disability you have.

Determining Your Impairments

In this step, a claims examiner looks over the medical history you have submitted, and decides whether your health condition SHOULD (in his or her opinion) impair you from doing the kinds of work you have done in your life. There is a graded range of impairments from “not severe” to “incapacitating,” that your various conditions will be classified with. At least one of the impairments you have documented in your medical history must be considered “severe,” in order to move your application on to Step 3.

Matching Your Impairments to the Federal List

The federal government publishes a Listing of Impairments, which shows the most common types of physical disabilities and states the level of severity for those conditions that would qualify you to be classified as “disabled.” If your personal health condition is not included on that list, the examiner has to decide which listed condition it would be equivalent to. Likewise, if you have a combination of two conditions that have a cumulatively more severe effect, the examiner is supposed to be aware of that medical fact and classify you accordingly.

Looking at Your Prior Job

If you have been classified as “disabled” according to Step 3 above, then the medical consultant or claims examiner will decide whether or not you should be able to return to the type of work that you were most recently doing. Whether or not your previous job still exists is irrelevant; essentially, the SSA examiner is placing you in a hypothetical situation in which their approval hinges on whether your “residual functional capacity” should leave you enough ability to engage in that previous type of work. If their answer is “yes,” than your application is denied.

Matching You Up with the “Grid Rules”

This is the final and trickiest step in qualifying for SSDI. A vocational consultant or examiner will review your age, your educational level, your lifelong job experience, and the statistical chances of employment for someone in those categories. This statistical data is then matched against your functional capacity. If you are under 50 and have a high-school diploma or any vocational training, statistics usually say that you should be able to secure employment that uses your mind rather than your body, and your functional capacity has to be very low in order to clear this hurdle. It is irrelevant whether any such actual jobs exist in the region where you live. If you are over 55, this hurdle is lower because you aren’t expected to be able to acquire new job skills.

How to Help the Process Along

Working with an attorney who specializes in social security in Athens, Georgia will give you the best chance of demonstrating your legitimate need for SSDI. The experienced lawyers at Morgan & Morgan are familiar with the grid process, and they can assemble the documentation you need in order to help the examiner choose the most accurate disability classification for you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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