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Are You Eligible For Social Security Disability?

If you are unable to work because of a disability, you may be eligible to receive disability benefits from the federal Social Security Administration (SSA) in the form of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Presenting the proper evidence is crucial to an individual's qualification for disability income.

How the SSA Determines Whether You Are Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits

The SSA determines whether you're eligible for disability benefits based on your inability to work because of an actual disability. The SSA defines "disability" as something more than just a temporary or short-term illness. An SSA disability is a physical or medical condition that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months, or which is expected to result in death. The individual must not only be unable to work at his or her current position, but must also be unable to perform substantial work at other types of employment. The worker's disability must be the principal reason he or she cannot work.

Moreover, when determining eligibility for SSA disability benefits, primary consideration is given to the severity of the individual's impairment.  A medical impairment may be any type of physical or psychological condition or injury that can be shown through medical evidence. In making its determination, the SSA will consider a person's ability to perform basic work activities -- including sitting, standing, walking, lifting, reaching, communicating, using judgment, and responding to supervision.

Proving Your Disability

An individual seeking benefits must prove the existence of a recognized impairment through diagnosis by a physician and the reporting of symptoms, clinical signs, and laboratory findings that match those of the corresponding condition in the listings. If an applicant has not received medical attention for the impairment, or evidence is not available, the SSA will be responsible for securing such evidence. Medical evidence should include a report from a licensed physician, a copy of the medical records from a hospital or clinic, and/or laboratory findings. The SSA will also consider the effectiveness of treatment upon the applicant's symptoms. Taken together, the evidence considered by the SSA will be more persuasive if it describes the individual's ability to perform work-related functions.

Besides medical impairment, an applicant must also demonstrate that he or she is unable to engage in "substantial gainful activity" in the following situations:

  • If the person's impairment is not "listed," or the functional equivalent of a listed impairment, or;
  • If his or her history indicates that he or she is able to perform substantial work. 

The term "substantial gainful activity" means employment for profit, whether full or part time. In deciding whether the applicant has the ability to perform useful work, the SSA will examine his or her work history, age, education, and daily activities. The amount of pay the applicant earned from working during the period of alleged disability may also be considered by the SSA as evidence of ability to perform substantial gainful activity.

Getting Help with the SSA Benefits Application Process

While proving a disability in order to receive SSA benefits may seem like a complex process, it can be as simple as filling out several pages of questionnaires and allowing the SSA access to your medical records. Employees of the SSA will perform most of the work needed to evaluate your case, and they are available for free consultation at any SSA office.

Get Help With Your SSDI or SSI Claim From an Attorney

Remember that qualifying for disability income from the SSA depends in large part on presenting the proper evidence. A legal professional will be able to ensure a smooth process and few suprises. It may be a good idea to contact an experienced social security disability attorney to answer any questions, and to assist you throughout the benefits application process.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified social security lawyer to assist in your social security disability matter.

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