Social Security Disability Eligibility

Being unable to work due to a disability is often a source of stress and frustration. While social security disability (SSD) benefits are available to help people with their financial struggle, going through the process of applying for SSD benefits can be time-consuming and confusing. People who learn more about eligibility may be able to ease the burden that applying for benefits can cause by educating themselves about their eligibility status.

How Eligibility is Decided

There are five areas that the Social Security Administration (SSA) covers in order to determine whether a person is eligible for SSD benefits.

– Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is any activity that results in the earning of income. People who are applying for SSD benefits cannot earn more than $1,040 per month as of 2013. Blind people may earn up to $1,740 per month.

– The severity of the impairment will be evaluated to determine whether the applicant could reasonably work in any position for which they are qualified. Some people who have an impairment are not eligible for SSD benefits because their impairment does not hurt their ability to perform job tasks.

– The SSA will determine whether an individual’s disability in included in a listing of recognized impairments. People who have disabilities that are not listed are not necessarily ineligible for benefits, but it is up to the individual to prove that their disability severely limits their ability to work.

– Applicants are required to consider employment in any position for which they are qualified. This means that the SSA will look over the work history of an applicant to determine whether they could work in an old position despite their disability status.

– One final factor that the SSA looks at is whether an applicant could change jobs in order to continue working. People who are nearing retirement age or who have a limited education are more likely to receive SSD benefits because it is not reasonable to ask these individuals to look for work outside of their current position.

How Your RFC is Determined

Residual functional capacity (RFC) refers to a person’s physical and mental limitations. Impairments that impact RFC are evaluated by the SSA to determine whether a person’s capabilities are limited enough to enable them to collect SSD benefits.

Physical RFC can be split into exertion level and non-exertion level limitations. An RFC limitation related to exertion may require a person to seek a position that involves sedentary work. A non-exertion limitation may make it impossible for a person to stoop, crouch, write, see, hear or be exposed to hot or cold temperatures.

Mental RFC relates to a person’s ability to handle stress, follow directions, understand job tasks or care for themselves. People who suffer from severe mental illness may have a limitation that makes it impossible for them to work.

RFC is evaluated by a medical professional. It is important for a person’s RFC report to be current and accurate.

Getting Disability for Specific Injuries

Some disabilities do not qualify a person for SSD benefits if these impairments are mild in nature. For example, back pain, obesity or headaches are types of impairments that can vary in severity. It is up to the individual to work with their medical professional to obtain proof that their condition is severe and limiting. Thorough medical records that detail these limitations should be kept.

Getting Help with Your Claim

Understanding whether you are eligible for SSD benefits is not always easy. You may be confused about how to determine whether you are eligible for benefits. The best thing to do when going through the process of applying for SSD benefits is to consult with an attorney. I have ten years of experience in social security cases and appeals, and am ready to fight for your benefits. Contact me today to get started on your case.

Ruth F. Kolb, Esquire has been practicing social security disability law since 2003 handling all levels of representation from initial claims through all stages of appeal.