It is nerve-wracking when bills keep coming in when you have a limited income because suddenly, you can no longer perform your work requirements. Because of this, you may need to seriously consider applying for social security.
Social Security Disability or SSD is a federal program in place that provides financial aid to those who have not been able to go back to work due to a disabling injury or illness. However, because of the bureaucracy surrounding the SSD benefits application process, a lot of people who have medically diagnosed conditions seeking SSD benefits get frustrated by the lengthy process, not only because it is time-consuming but also requires due diligence in gathering of documents and medical records. It could even necessitate a special hearing in front of an administrative law judge, an appeal to the Appeals Council, and numerous subsequent appeals filed in the federal courts.
It takes a lot of patience to really push through the SSD application. Since the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review decides on more than 2 million claims annually, most SSD applicants get denied and have to file an appeal in order to get paid.
How Can I Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
Those who seek SSD benefit payments must prove that they are qualified by meeting set criteria. The SS applicant must demonstrate that there is a condition that limits their ability to work.
The Social Security Administration will determine your eligibility based on the following:
- Your disability is permanent. This means that it has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death. In order to establish proof, it is advisable to keep your medical records and other important documents updated. This will ensure clarity between you, the applicant, and the SSA.
- You cannot do work-related physical and mental activities that you normally did before. The SSA will determine whether or not your disability prevents you from engaging in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). The SSA will check if your disability prevents you from performing the normal day-to-day requirements of your previous job.
- Your medical condition(s) prevents you from seeking another type of employment. Because of the impairment itself, or due to age or education.
Since Social Security taxes of all workers provide funding for the SSD program, it is established that in order to be eligible for the SSD benefits, you must have a history of employment and payment of Social Security taxes. Ideally, you are qualified if you have been able to pay the Social Security system for 40 quarters – 20 of which were in the 10 years before you became disabled.
What is the Data I Need to Present to Prove Eligibility?
In order to prove your eligibility for SSD benefits, you must provide a variety of personal information in addition to information from:
- Medical records from doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and caseworkers.
- Employment records
- Workers’ compensation claim records
- Financial records including, bank statements, retirement accounts, and other assets.
In order to prove you have a demonstrable physical or mental disability, your medical records should state a condition that matches an impairment listed in the Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book”. When deciding to determine if you are awarded benefits, the SSA will work to determine the severity of your condition based on your provided documentation.
What are Common Disabilities Qualified for SSD Benefits?
The Blue Book is a medical guide to determine whether or not a condition is severe enough to warrant disability payments. The list of impairments is designed to help you better understand the information that you need to provide with your disability claim to establish that you are totally disabled according to the guidelines set forth by the SSA. The list refers to each major body system that is considered severe enough to prevent an adult from doing any gainful work. If your medical condition matches a listed impairment, you are considered disabled.
The most common disabilities qualifying for SSD benefits include:
- Musculoskeletal System
- Special Senses and Speech
- Respiratory Disorders
- Cardiovascular System
- Digestive System
- Genitourinary Disorders
- Hematological Disorders
- Skin Disorders
- Endocrine Disorders
- Congenital Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems
- Neurological Disorders
- Mental Disorders
- Cancer (Malignant Neoplastic Diseases)
- Immune System Disorders
Many individuals will not meet a listing exactly but are still entirely disabled. For example, someone might experience a variety of symptoms from several illnesses that match the severity of one of the Blue Book listings.
If your condition does not match a listing exactly, it will need to be determined if your impairment is similar enough to the severity of another listed impairment to be considered “equal.” to do this, you must provide medical evidence that demonstrates that your injury or illness incapacitates you in a manner that is equivalent to an impairment in the list.
There are several ways that your condition may be considered “equal” to another listing:
- Your condition is not specifically listed in the Blue Book but is similar in severity to another listing. For example, you might get frequent migraines, which is not a condition that is listed in the Blue Book. However, the effects of migraine might be similar to non-convulsive seizures, which are listed in the neurological section 11.03 of the Blue Book. If you can prove that your condition is similar, or equal, in severity to another condition, you might be awarded disability benefits.
- You have several “milder” conditions, which when put together are much more severe than each one alone. For example, you might have arthritis in your knees, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. While none of the conditions alone meets the criteria for disability, the combination of the three illnesses may be severe enough to “equal” another listing.
If your condition is not listed in the Blue Book, or if you suffer from a combination of conditions, it is possible that the severity of your illness may equal that of a listed impairment. As such, you may be considered disabled.
If the reviewer handling your claim affirms that you have a disabling condition, the reviewer then must decide whether you can perform your current job’s essential functions with a reasonable accommodation, or whether you can perform any other kind of substantial gainful activity.
A letter will be sent to you once the state has decided on your case. If your application has been approved, the letter will show the benefit amount and when SSD benefits payments will start. If your application isn’t approved, it will state the reason and advise you on the appeal process for your disability determination.
Should I hire a disability attorney to help me prove that my condition meets or equals a listing in the Blue Book?
While the Blue Book is very thorough, it is also extremely complicated to read if you do not have a medical background. A social security disability lawyer understands the Blue Book and has the resources to seek a better understanding if needed. We, at Farmer Wright, can help to ensure that you have all of the medical evidence required to meet or equal a disability listing. Our experienced disability lawyers are available to guide you on the eligibility requirements, ensure that benefits are paid accordingly, or even work with you in the appeals process, Call us for a free initial consultation.