What Criteria Does The SSA Use To Determine Disability? - O'Connor Acciani & Levy

What Criteria Does The SSA Use To Determine Disability?

November 30, 2017 | By O'Connor Acciani & Levy
What Criteria Does The SSA Use To Determine Disability?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) awards disability benefits to people with health issues who meet a specific set of criteria. These criteria cover not only the severity of your medical issue but how that issue hurts your ability to work. Our Cincinnati Social Security disability lawyers have a detailed understanding of the different things the SSA looks at to determine if your medical condition qualifies as a disability. We can walk you through every step of the application process and help you gather the information you need to have a chance of proving your claim. The criteria the SSA analyzes to determine if you qualify includes:

Current Earnings

No matter how severe your medical impairments are, the SSA will not consider you disabled if you are able to maintain substantial gainful activity. This does not mean you need to have an injury that prevents you from working at all. In fact, some people who work part-time qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Substantial gainful activity means that you earn more than a certain amount of money each month. The income limitation for 2017 is $1,170 per month. If a claimant is earning more than the Substantial Gainful Activity limit, his or her application will be immediately denied on the same day it was submitted, known as a technical denial. If you earn less than the limit, your application will be submitted to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office to assess the next set of criteria.

Severity Of Impairment

The claimant must have a medically determinable impairment that is severe in nature. This means that the impairment must interfere with basic work-related activities and be expected to last for at least one year or be terminal in nature. The SSA does not approve claims for short-term disabilities. Proving the severity of your condition may require a significant amount of medical evidence that demonstrates how your condition affects your ability to work. Medical evidence may include current information such as:
  • Surgery notes
  • Doctor’s visit notes
  • Lab results
  • Lists of currently prescribed medication
  • Psychiatric notes

Meeting An Impairment Listing

The medical condition is evaluated under the SSA’s listing of impairments. These are conditions that are so severe that a person will qualify for benefits if he or she has the condition specified and meets the specific criteria under the listing. The list includes specific conditions for each of the body’s major systems along with details about when a certain listing is met. If your condition does not meet or equal one of these listings, your condition may still qualify for disability benefits if you can demonstrate that the condition prevents you from working.

Previous Work Capability

The next thing the SSA will do is evaluate you to determine if you can perform work that you did previously or if your condition interferes with your ability to perform this work. The SSA may examine evidence such as:
  • Medical records
  • Employment records
  • Educational level
  • Job skills
  • Work experience
If you are able to perform the same type of work you did before, your claim for disability benefits will be denied.

Ability To Perform Other Jobs

If the SSA determines that you are not able to perform your previous work, it will then consider whether you are able to perform other types of work given your impairments and limitations. This determination is made largely by using a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Assessment. An evaluator makes this assessment and lists the claimant’s limitations based on medical records, such as limiting the number of pounds he or she can lift or listing how long he or she could walk before needing a break. The evaluator also determines whether the claimant can remember instructions, interact appropriately with colleagues and respond to changes in the environment. The RFC assessment also determines the most demanding type of work a person can do given his or her limitations. The SSA takes this information and determines if the claimant could perform other work based on his or her education, work experience and job skills. The experienced Social Security Disability attorneys at O’Connor, Acciani & Levy can help you gather evidence to support your disability claim. We can also help with every stage of the appeals process if your claim is denied. You pay nothing upfront for our services. This means your consultation with our trusted lawyers is absolutely free. We only charge you for our legal services if you receive disability compensation.