How Does the Social Security Administration Determine Disability Status?

Disability can come in many forms. Some people develop serious conditions or illnesses that seriously interfere with their ability to work, while others may get injured and suffer from pain or disability that makes it impossible to continue doing their job.

When people are physically or even psychologically unable to maintain the jobs that they and their families depend on, they may be eligible to receive a percentage of their previous income through the Social Security Administration (SSA). These benefits, called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), are only provided to people whose applications are approved by the SSA.

Unfortunately, many applications for SSDI benefits are denied due to the SSA’s strict requirements for determining disabilities. The SSA’s criteria for determining who is and isn’t disabled includes:

  • Are you physically or mentally able to work?

    If you are employed in any capacity and earn more than $1,090 per month, you may not quality for SSDI benefits—even if you are suffering from a serious physical or mental condition or are disabled due to an injury.

  • Is your condition severe enough to prevent you from working?

    Your condition—whether it’s a disease, progressive disorder, or a disabling injury—must be considered severe enough to prevent you from doing basic work-related activities to qualify you for SSDI benefits. Less severe conditions that don’t completely prevent you from working and earning a living may not be considered serious enough by the SSA to make you eligible for SSDI benefits and income replacement.

  • Is your condition found on the SSA’s list of disabling conditions?

    Even if your doctor says that your condition is disabling, you generally must present symptoms of a disease or injury that is listed on the SSA’s database of disabling conditions. Fortunately, this list is fairly comprehensive and covers the majority of injuries, diseases, and disorders that can interfere with your ability to earn a living. In addition, your application or appeal may still be approved if the SSA reviews it and determines that your condition is disabling—even if it’s not on the list.

  • Are you still able to do the work you did before you developed the disease or got injured?

    In some cases, people who develop serious illnesses or injuries are still able to perform the work they did before their health was affected. To determine if you can still do your prior job, the SSA will look at things like:

    • Whether you can exert yourself physically and perform activities like lifting, standing sitting, and carrying objects
    • Whether you can perform functions that require motor skills like reaching, using your fingers, kneeling, crouching, and balancing
    • Whether you can see, hear, and speak without great difficulty
    • Whether you can maintain the concentration and attention required to do your job
    • Whether you can understand and remember instructions and respond appropriately to your supervisor and coworkers while on the job

    After investigating your condition and your current or previous job, the SSA will determine whether your condition is disabling enough to prevent you from doing some or all aspects of the work involved in that occupation.

  • Are you able to perform any other type of work?

    Although you may only be trained for a specific line of work, the SSA may be reluctant to approve your claim for benefits if it believes you are still capable of doing other types of work. The SSA will determine your overall ability to work by considering your age, education level, previous work experience, and transferable skills you may have learned at your job or at school. If the SSA determines that you can’t feasibly transfer to another line of work, your claim has a good chance of being approved.

Getting an Attorney on Your Side Can Improve Your Chances of Success

As you can see, the SSA has strict criteria when reviewing applications and appeals for SSDI benefits. However, just because your claim was initially denied by the SSA doesn’t mean you’ve lost your opportunity to receive the benefits you and your family need.

At Matt Hardin Law, our Nashville Social Security Disability lawyers know the ins-and-outs of how the SSA reviews, denies, and approves applications and appeals, and we know what it takes to maximize your chances of getting full SSDI benefits.

If your initial application was denied, don’t take no for an answer. Get our experienced legal team on your side today. Just dial (615) 200-1111 or complete our online consultation form to find out how we can help you.

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