When you’re applying for Social Security Disability benefits, the definition of being considered “disabled” can vary widely. A person with no legs might not feel disabled at all, while someone who has just gone through a concussion might feel permanently disabled.
For the purposes of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Social Security Administration has created certain standards. Essentially, for a person to be considered disabled, they must have an impairment. This impairment can either be:
- Psychological/Psychiatric, or
In addition, for a person to be considered disabled, their disability must have prevented them from earning money for their family for at least 12 months. If not, their disability must be expected to last for a period of at least 12 months into the future. The sole reason the SSA put in this requirement was to make it clear that while severe conditions can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits – minor injuries can not.
Amount of Work
For a person to be considered eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, they must be unable to earn a living for themselves or their family. Generally, this means that you can’t work and earn a certain amount. In 2020, this means that you can’t make at least $1,260 a month.
This is often called “substantial gainful activity.” For self-employed people, there are other tests that the SSA performs to determine if a person is engaged in substantial gainful activity. If a person is earning more than the substantial gain activity limit, they won’t be considered eligible for SSDI. In this case, their medical records won’t even be considered. They will be denied disability benefits on the same day, on the grounds of a “technical denial.” However, the SSA does entertain an application if you’re working part-time. If you’re not earning more than the substantial gain activity limit set by the SSA, you can apply for social security disability benefits. However, generally, the closer you are to earning SGA, the more likely it is that you will not receive benefits.
It is essential that the medical records you provide contain evidence of your physical or mental impairments. Your medical records should also contain how your disability prevents you from daily life activities or from your “functional limitations.” Apart from being relevant to your disability, the medical records should also be up to date.
The records you provide should include a doctor’s note or lab tests from the last 60 to 90 days. After a screening, if the SSA assesses your disability to be permanently disabling, your case will be approved for benefits. But if that’s not the case, the SSA will then assess if you’re able to perform any other work.
If your initial application for Social Security Disability benefits is rejected, the best thing you can do is appeal that decision, and we recommend that you hire a disability attorney, if you haven’t already, to help with your claim.
The denial rate for individuals who file their own claims can be as high as 75 percent. The rejection rate can vary from city to city, but the bottom line is that it is hard to get benefits on your own. A quality attorney like the ones at Kahn & Associates, don’t get paid until you receive your disability benefits.
Residual Functional Capacity
In the case of a physical impairment, the SSA will decide if you can do heavy, medium, light, or sedentary work. They will do this by looking at the functional limitations you have put in your records. For example, these functional limitations can be:
- Unable to lift heavy objects
- Unable to run
- Unable to walk
- Unable to navigate stairs
- Unable to sit for long periods of time
If you have a psychiatric, cognitive or psychological disability the SSA will assess:
- If you can understand and remember basic instructions
- If you can focus and concentrate
- If you can interact with other people appropriately
- If you can react to challenges at the workplace
After the residual functional capacity assessment, the SSA will decide whether you can do
- Skilled work
- Semi-skilled work, or
- Unskilled work
Not getting a paycheck when you apply for SSDI benefits can be devastating when you have a family to support. If you’re a looking to apply for SSDI benefits, Kahn and Associates can help. We charge fee on a contingency basis, so we don’t get paid until you win.
After the SSA is done with the RFC assessment, they are going to use that information to evaluate whether you can do your previous job. Most of the time, applicants are unable to perform their previous jobs, which causes them to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. This happens because their previous job has tough physical demands that are too much for them.
However, even if Social Security agrees that you’re unable to do the work you previously did, they will then have to decide whether you are able to do different work. To do this, the SSA will sometimes use the “medical-vocational” grid to determine whether an applicant is disabled (typically when the applicant is 50 years old or older.
For example, a 55-year-old mechanic might be asked to do car-body repairs only if the duties are similar. But in the case that an applicant is older, does not have many transferable skills, and can’t learn a new job, the SSA may consider them disabled.
It is understandable that when an individual is out of work, their ability to pay for an attorney is impacted. That is why Kahn and Associates takes most cases on a contingency fee basis, which means we do not require any payment unless we are successful in securing benefits for you.
To learn more about your rights under the Social Security Disability laws call our FREE Disability Hotline at 1-866-4-MY-SSDI (469-7734) to speak with one of our friendly disability rights advocates who, once they obtain all the required information, will evaluate your claim in 60 seconds or less. Alternatively, you can fill out our FREE Disability Case Assessment form and one of our representatives will contact you immediately.