Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

What are the requirements for disability?

Disability under Social Security is based on your inability to work. You will be considered disabled if you cannot do work you did before, and Social Security decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s). The Social Security Administration will consider your age, education, condition, and work history when trying to decide if you  are unable to perform any job on a full-time basis. Your disability also must last or be expected to last for at least twelve months.
Who can receive disability benefits?

You can receive Social Security disability benefits until age 65. When you reach age 65, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same. Certain members of your family may qualify for benefits based on your social security earnings record.

There are two programs administered by the Social Security Administration and only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program.

Social Security Disability Insurance is a program that pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are "insured", meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.

Supplemental Security Income is a program that pays benefits based on financial need. Top of page
What work is necessary to qualify?

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security. In general, a person must have worked and paid Social Security tax for about five out of the last ten years before the total disability began. Top of page
What if you have not worked or your work does not qualify?

In the event your earnings are not sufficient to qualify for Social Security Disability, or Disability Insurance Benefits, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income referred to as SSI. SSI is a form of welfare and is a reduced monthly benefit paid to you based on your disability and income. The amount paid under SSI is significantly less than you would receive under social security disability, but it is based on your available income and resources. Top of page
What are the medical requirements to qualify?

The Social Security office will send your application to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office in your state. The DDS will accumulate information to determine whether you are disabled under the Social Security law. They will use the medical evidence from your doctors and from hospitals, clinics, or institutions where you have been treated.

Each case is different and regardless of the condition you face, the information provided by your healthcare provider is what the Social Security Administration uses to approve you for benefits. Top of page
What is the Five Step Process used to determine whether a person is disabled?

1. Are you working? If you are currently working and your earnings are more than around $1,000 a month, you generally cannot be considered disabled. If you are not working, then go to the next step.

2. Is your condition "severe"? Your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities to disable you from working for at least twelve months. If your condition is severe, then go to the next step.

3. Is your condition found in the list of disabling impairments? Social Security maintains a list of impairments for each of the major body systems that are so severe, they automatically qualify you for disability. If your condition is on the list, you will be found disabled. If it is not, then go to the next step to find if your condition is of equal severity.

4. Can you do the work you did previously? Social Security must determine if your condition interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If it does not your claim will be denied. If it does, they go to the next step.

5. Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do the work you did in the past, Social Security sees if you are able to adjust to other work. They consider your medical condtion(s), age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills you may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. Top of page
How do I get started?

The first step is to apply. You have two choices for filing your Social Security benefits application.

1. You can file your own claim. Most people who apply on their own are initially denied.

2. You can get professional representation to help you apply.

The Law Offices of Karen Kraus Bill has experience and can guide you if you feel you would like help. You can apply for benefits in our office with the help of an expert, that knows how the system works. With representation, you can increase your chances of winning, maximize benefits, file paperwork accurately, and avoid becoming frustrated with the Social Security Administration. Top of page
How do I appeal a denied claim?

If your claim is denied or you disagree with any part of the Social Security Administration's decision, you may appeal the decision. You have 60 days from the time you receive their letter to file an appeal. There are three appeal steps:

Hearing Before Administrative Law Judge - if you disagree with the initial decision you can go before a judge

Appeals Council Review - if you disagree with the Judge's decision you can ask for your case to be reviewed

Federal Court - if you disagree with the Appeals Council's decision you may appeal to the United States Court system

From filing initial claims to appealing in Federal Court, The Law Offices of Karen Kraus Bill can help you with any step along the way. Top of page
How long does it take?

Every case is different and the time frame for approval is very broad. Some cases may be approved in just a few months, while others can take a few years. Top of page