This article describes what the Social Security Administration looks for when deciding to award Social Security Disability benefits.
Getting approved for Social Security Disability benefits is not easy. Not only must an applicant be eligible for benefits, but the applicant must have disabilities that are severe enough that essentially make him or her unable to participate in the United States labor force given their age, work experience, education and other factors.
First, to get awarded Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you must prove you are disabled. This entails showing the Social Security Administration you have a medical condition or disability that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful work activity for at least 12 months.
Next, the applicant must show the impairment is severe.
If an applicant can show this, the applicant can then qualify for disability. Qualifying for disability occurs in two different ways.
The first way is by meeting the requirements of a condition, both physical and mental, that is included in the Social Security Listing of Impairments or “Blue Book”.
The listing of impairments is a manual of medical conditions and diseases that qualifies a person for benefits. It addresses every major body system as well as mental impairments. Few applicants meet the strict standard for meeting or exceeding an impairment listing. The listing criteria do not include an analysis of a person’s age, work experience or education. A person’s claim either meets the criteria in the listing, or it does not.
The second way to qualify for social security disability benefits is through a medical vocational allowance. This entails determining whether you are capable of completing your past work, and if not, whether you can do any other work. To qualify for disability benefits, the applicant must show he or she is not capable of completing past work and cannot do any other work as well.
So what does “other work” entail? This means any one of the thousands of jobs available in the United States labor market based on your education, work skills and age. However, the extent to which your impairments and restrictions prevent you from completing basic tasks is also considered. This last factor is often referred to as RFC, or residual functional capacity, and is very important.
At this stage, the disability examiners or the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) takes all these factors and plug them into a set of medical-vocational rules knows as “the grid.” Depending on where you fall within the grid determines whether you will be awarded benefits or not.
So in review, an individual filing for Social Security benefits does not necessarily have to satisfy the exact listing requirements for a particular illness or condition to be awarded disability benefits. You can also obtain benefits if Social Security considers aspects of your condition medically equivalent to the criteria in the listing or a similar listing. Social Security does this by taking into consideration your age, education, work sills and residual functional capacity (RFC).
Determining a person’s RFC is not an objective determination. The greater the restrictions placed on a person by their treating physician – whether it be lifting restrictions, restrictions from standing, stooping or climbing – the more likely the person will be considered unable to work. In addition, obtaining a medical narrative from the treating physician, often referred to as a medical source statement, detailing the claimant’s limitations and restrictions should also be accomplished by the disability attorney.
The Social Security Disability lawyers at Lee Steinberg, P.C. can help you get started with the application process.
For all disability needs, please call the Michigan Social Security lawyers at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733). Our team of experienced Michigan disability lawyers are here to answer your questions and win your case. The consultation is free and there is no fee unless we get your benefits.