Social Security Disability – An Overview
If you are considering applying for Social Security Disability benefits, or if you are in the midst of appealing a denial of benefits, it is important to understand the Social Security Administration’s approval process. In addition to meeting the definition of “disabled” and fulfilling the earnings requirements that the Social Security Administration dictates, you must present a convincing and organized claim.
An experienced Social Security Disability attorney from Law Offices of Judith S. Leland, APLC in Downey, CA, can offer insight and guidance in your pursuit of benefits.
An impairment that qualifies as a disability under Social Security Administration (SSA) guidelines must be quite serious. The impairment must render the applicant unable to perform any substantial gainful activity — that is, the applicant must not be able to earn more than a minimum amount of money, as determined each year by the SSA.
The impairment must completely disable the applicant from working. It must be expected to last for a year, have already lasted a year, or be expected to cause the applicant’s death. But this is not the end of the qualifying tests.
The Social Security Administration also requires the applicant to have a sufficient work history to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Based upon the applicant’s age, he or she must have worked for a specified number of years. The applicant also must have worked at least some of those years recently. This is because Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are “earned” with the contributions applicants have made through their Social Security taxes. Some applicants, for instance blind ones, are not required to meet the recent work test.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI), on the other hand, is a needs-based program that helps disabled people with low income and few resources.
The Decision Process
Following the receipt of an application, an SSA representative will review the information. If the representative is satisfied that the application meets certain basic criteria, the application and accompanying evidentiary materials will be forwarded to a state agency that is charged with making a decision regarding the disability benefits. The state agency may develop the file further by gathering more medical or vocational evidence.
The SSA uses a five-step process to determine whether the applicant should receive benefits, asking:
- Whether the applicant is working
- Whether the medical condition is severe enough to render the applicant disabled
- Whether the impairment is on a government list of impairments granting automatic disability status (if the impairment is not on the list, that does not necessarily disqualify the applicant)
- Whether the applicant can do the work he or she did before
- Whether the applicant can do other types of work
The state agency will return the file to the SSA with its recommendation. The SSA almost always adopts the state agency’s disability determination.
After considering all other eligibility questions, the SSA will mail the applicant a notice of its decision.
An applicant has the right to appeal a denial of benefits. The first appeal is a reconsideration of the initial denial, typically a review by a new person of the written evidence and any additional evidence. In some states, this reconsideration step has been eliminated and applicants go right from an initial denial to a hearing with an administrative law judge. After reconsideration, the next appeal goes to an administrative law judge for a hearing. Following this stage, the applicant has a right to appeal to the Social Security Appeals Council (SSAC). Finally, the applicant may appeal to the federal courts. An attorney can offer valuable assistance throughout the appeals process.
Speak with an Attorney
Each step of the Social Security Disability benefits application process can be time-consuming and complex. An attorney from Law Offices of Judith S. Leland, APLC in Downey, CA, can answer your questions and help you through the qualification and appeals process.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.