What You Need To Know
How does the Social Security Administration define disability?
“Disability” is defined in the Social Security Regulations as “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.
In other words, to be found “disabled” by the Social Security Administration (SSA), you have to prove with medical evidence that you have an illness or injury that prevents you from being able to perform any full-time work for at least twelve months.
How do you prove you are disabled?
Disability is proven with evidence from acceptable medical sources. “Acceptable medical sources” are physicians and other licensed healthcare professionals. The evidence comes in the form of medical records including lab reports, x-rays, MRIs, treatment notes, and any other documentation that is available describing the illness or injury and its impact on your ability to function. In addition, the opinion of your treating physician is very important. A letter or a report from your treating physician stating that your illness or injury prevents you from being able to work is extremely helpful in supporting a claim for disability. Medical doctors’ opinions are generally given more weight than those of other healthcare professionals like chiropractors and physicians’ assistants, but reports from anyone treating you for your illness or injury must be considered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Along with the medical evidence, the SSA will also review your written description of your limitations in the application forms and your testimony, should your case go to an Administrative Law Judge hearing.
How can I make my claim stronger?
If you are applying for Social Security Disability (SSD / SSI) or Supplemental Security Income benefits it is very important that you consult with a physician as regularly as possible. If you have insurance, regular visits to your primary physician are the best way to develop support for your claim. If your primary physician is able to refer you to a specialist, those additional reports are also very helpful. The main thing you can do to help your case is to see a doctor as often as necessary, and to be sure to tell the doctor all the problems you are having and how they are affecting you. For example, if you have a back problem be sure and describe for your doctor all the symptoms, how often they occur, and how the symptoms affect your daily activities. That way the medical records will detail the diagnosis itself, the symptoms that result from the diagnosis, and the effect the illness or injury has on your daily life.
What if I don’t have insurance?
Having frequent visits to a doctor is not required to be found disabled. It is not unusual for people to be without adequate health insurance, especially if they have been out of work. You only have to show that you have an illness or an injury and that it is severe enough to keep you from working. Even periodic visits to a free clinic or a county hospital can demonstrate a severe medical condition. It is understood by the Social Security Administration that if you cannot work it is difficult to maintain insurance. Making the effort to obtain treatment even from free clinics or county hospitals proves a great deal about the severity of your condition.
Do I have to have an attorney to file a claim?
No. There is no requirement that you have an attorney at any stage of the process. However, an attorney can handle your case at any time. Statistics show that an attorney will significantly increase your chances of success. If you have any additional questions about hiring an attorney please call 1-800-266-5914 to discuss your case with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney .
Is there an age requirement to be found disabled?
Absolutely not! Anyone of any age can be found disabled. The Social Security regulations make it easier to be found disabled if you are over the age of 50, but there are people of all ages who are receiving disability benefits. You simply need to have a severe medical problem that keeps you from being able to work.
If I am found disabled how much will I get?
It all depends on your work history. The amount varies widely from as low as few hundred dollars a month up to several thousand dollars a month. If you have minor children you may also be eligible for additional payments for them. If you have not worked a great deal in the past you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income benefits which is a need-based program for individuals who are disabled. For more information on your potential benefit amount, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or go to the Internet Resources page of this website.
What if I have several medical problems that individually are not disabling?
Having a combination of problems is a very common situation for people applying for Social Security Disability (SSD / SSI) and Supplemental Security Income benefits. It is not hard to see how one problem leads to another. People with back problems will often develop knee or leg problems. People with diabetes often develop other conditions like high blood pressure or kidney problems. People with chronic pain often have problems with depression. It is important to always let your doctors know about ALL the problems you are having. The majority of claims before the Social Security Administration involve a combination of problems.
Can I still receive benefits if I plan to go back to work?
Yes. You are only required to demonstrate that your illness or injury has or will prevent you from being able to work for 12 months or more. Once you have shown that you meet the 12-month requirement you can be eligible for payments. Social Security has instituted a number of programs that encourage people to attempt working while they are receiving their benefits.
How long will I receive the benefits?
For as long as you remain unable to work. If your condition improves and you are able to return to work on a full-time and sustained basis, then the benefits may be discontinued.
Will Social Security ever cut me off?
Social Security will most likely review your case within three years of being found disabled. To discontinue your disability benefits they will have to prove that your condition has improved to the point where you are able to return to full-time work. If the Social Security Administration determines you can return to work, you have a right to and should appeal that decision.
What is the biggest mistake a person can make?
The biggest mistake people make when applying for disability benefits is not appealing when the claim is denied. The Social Security Administration often initially denies good claims that are successful at one of the later stages. It is critical that you appeal the decision denying your benefits within 60 days.
Another mistake people make when applying for disability benefits is relying on Social Security to obtain your medical records for you. They will likely try and obtain some but not all of the records. They will then make a decision based on what they have received and not on your true condition.
For answers to questions about your specific situation and to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney, contact us anytime.