You spent hours and hours making sure that your Social Security Disability application was flawless; crossed your t's, dotted your i's, and provided even more documentation than was necessary. So why, after all the weeks of waiting, was your application for SSDI benefits ultimately denied by the Social Security Administration? You're sick, you're unable to work and you have a pile of bills waiting to be paid...what gives? What are they looking for in a qualified applicant?
After all of the hard work you did, you're probably wondering if there's some type of method to the Social Security Administration 's disability madness. Do they have strict guidelines in place for reviewing applications—or are they just making it up as they go along?
How Social Security Disability Applications Are Reviewed
Believe it or not, the SSA does have a very clear five-step sequential evaluation for every disability application they receive. When they begin to review your application, they start with step number one. If, at any point, you don't qualify at a certain step, you are usually denied.
Here's what they are looking for:
- Are you working now? If you are currently working and your average monthly earnings are more than $1,040 (for 2013), the SSA will generally not consider you disabled.
- Is your condition "severe"? To be considered severe, your disability must interfere with your basic work-related activities.
- Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions? The SSA has a long list of medical conditions, both physical and mental, that will automatically qualify you as disabled. There are certain diagnoses, called compassionate allowances, which can immediately qualify you. If your disability is not on the list of disabling conditions, your case examiner will decide if your condition is of equal severity to a medical condition that is on the list.
- Can you do the work you did previously? Looking at your past work history, the SSA will evaluate whether you're capable of doing the lightest work possible that you've done before.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do work you've done in the past, the SSA will try to figure out if you can do any other type of work. They will take into account your age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills.
If your disability case examiner has not found any reason to disqualify you after working his way through the five steps, you will be approved to receive Social Security disability benefits. Keep these steps in mind as you fill out your application, and we can hope you will be able to avoid a denial.
Still not sure whether you're eligible for SSDI? Contact The Law Office of Robert J. Hunt, LLC at (317) 743-0614 for a free consultation.