The Social Security Disability Determination
Social Security Disability (SSD) is awarded to individuals who file disability applications who can prove A) they have a severe, ongoing medical condition, and B) this this condition prevents them from being able to earn a living, either at a job they've done in the past, or at some form of other work for which they might possibly be suited based on their age, education, skills, and functional capacity.
Social Security makes all SSD determinations based on these core issues, closely examining claimants’ medical records and work histories in the process.
When you first file for SSD you will meet with a Social Security claims rep (called a CR) in a local social security office, who takes disability applications and then passes them on to the state disability determination services (DDS) agency (where decisions on claims are made by disability examiners).
At this initial interview you should supply the CR with, at the very least, a detailed contact list of any medical professionals or facilities at which you have received treatment for your condition. Be sure to include correct names, adresses, and phone numbers on your medical history--without this information, Social Security may not be able to get your records.
If you can get copies of your medical records before you meet with the CR, so much the better. Many, if not most physicians, are slow to comply with requests for records in disability matters, so providing a complete copy of this information at the time of filing can greatly speed up a decision in your case. Be sure to include records of any licensed medical professional from which you have sought help for your symptoms, not just physicians.
Psychologists, osteopaths, optometrists, and podiatrists, while not M.D.s, are all considered acceptable medical treatment sources by Social Security.
A chiropractor is not recognized as a medical expert by Social Security, but the results of any objective tests the chiropractor performs, such as X-rays, should be included in your case file, as a disability examiner may consider them in his or her decision.
In addition to your medical history, you must povide the CR with a complete, detailed work history of all of the jobs you’ve held in the last 15 years. Your work history is nearly as important as your medical history to the disability examiner who will decide your claim, because even those with obvious severe impairments (such as chronic pain, a debilitating injury, or even loss of limb) may be denied SSD if they cannot prove that their impairment prevents them from performing a past job or any other work at which they could earn the SGA amount.
SGA stands for substantial gainful activity, and if a disability examiner or judge decides that you could still earn the SGA amount you will be turned down for benefits. This, of course, is why it can be very important to have representation, particularly at the disability hearing level. A good disability attorney can address the issue of whether an individual's condition sufficiently limits his or her ability engage in work activity that was previously performed, as well as address the issue of whether or not it is reasonable to believe that the claimant can switch to some form of other work that they have never done before.
Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog
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