How does Social Security determine if I am disabled or not and why does it take so long? This is a common question in our office. Once you submit your application for disability benefits it will go through five steps to determine if you are eligible for benefits. Here is Social Security’s 5 step evaluation process:
Step 1: What are Your Past Work History and Current Income Levels?
Before Social Security will even look at your actual disabilities they will figure out what type of benefits you are eligible for. If you have worked enough (you have sufficient work credits) you will qualify for DIB or SSDI benefits. They will also look to see if your household income is low enough you will also qualify for SSI benefits. If you do not have sufficient work credits and your household income is too high you will not qualify for disability benefits regardless of your condition. As long you qualify for at least one of these benefits you will move on to step 2.
Step 2: How Severe Is Your Condition?
Now Social Security will look at what type of condition you have. For this step they are not going to be determining exactly how your condition is affecting you, rather just if the condition itself is severe enough to warrant disability benefits. For a condition to qualify it must be a condition that will A) inhibit your ability to work full time, and B) be a condition that will last for at least a year. Conditions such as torn ACL’s, torn rotator cuffs, or pneumonia may keep you from working now but will not qualify for disability benefits because they will not limit you for an entire year. These types of conditions are taken care of with short term disability benefits. If you do have a condition that can qualify for disability benefits you will move on to step 3.
Step 3: Does Your Condition Meet a Listing?
You may have heard about Social Security’s Book of Listings or their blue book. In this list they break down many of the common conditions that qualify for disability. In each listing they list how severe that condition must be to be eligible for disability benefits. This is the first step where Social Security is actually going to review your medical records to determine the severity of your condition. If you meet on of their listings you will be approved for benefits. If you do not meet a listing you will move on to step 4.
Step 4: Are You Able To Work at One of Your Previous Jobs?
Now Social Security will review your work history. They will look at your education and experience to see what type of jobs you are trained to do. If your condition does not prevent you from doing your past jobs you will be denied for benefits. If your condition does prevent you from doing your previous jobs you will move on to step 5.
Step 5: Can You Work at Other Jobs?
In this final step Social Security will determine if you are fit to work other types of jobs that you have not done in the past. For this step they will take into account your age and education as well as your conditions. If Social Security determines you are unfit for any type of job you will be approved for benefits. However, if they determine a type of job you can be reasonably expected to handle, you will be denied for benefits.
Can I Turn Around a Disability Denial?
If you are denied on your initial disability application don’t get discouraged. Most people have to appeal their denials until they can see an actual judge on their claim. If you need help applying or appealing your denial call a Utah Disability Attorney. Having an experienced attorney on your side will greatly improve your chances of winning disability benefits. We know the system. We know what Social Security is looking for. Let us help. Give us a call today for your free consultation.