Social Security Disability: How the SSA makes its decision

According to the Social Security Administration, a disability will affect more than one out of every four of today's 20-year-olds before they reach the age of 67. Assuming you have paid into the system long enough and have thus met the eligibility requirements, if you suffer a disability that prevents you from working, you are entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

But how does the SSA decide if you qualify for SSDI benefits? For every SSDI applicant, the SSA goes through a five step process to determine eligibility.

Five steps comprise a thorough review of your ability to work and the severity of your condition

The first step is a determination of whether or not you are working. If you are working, and earn more than a certain amount (for 2014, it is $1,070 a month), you typically cannot be found to be disabled by the SSA.

Assuming you are not working, the next inquiry is whether or not your condition qualifies as "severe." To be severe under the SSA's definition, a condition must get in the way of conducting basic work-related activities. For conditions that are severe, the third step is checking your condition against the SSA's list of disabling conditions. This is a list of serious conditions affecting various major body systems. If your condition is on the list, or is equally severe as a condition on the list, you will automatically be found to be disabled.

Some conditions are severe enough to arguably prevent you from working, but are not so severe as to be on the list of disabling conditions. If you are suffering from such a condition, you will proceed to the fourth step, which is an analysis of your ability to continue the work you had been doing. If the SSA is convinced you cannot perform the work you had been previously doing due to your condition, you will proceed to the final stage, which is an inquiry into your ability to adjust to other work; your skills, age, education and past experience will be considered along with you medical conditions.

Contact an experienced SSDI lawyer today

From a bird' eye view, the five steps in determining whether or not you are disabled under the SSA's standards seem relatively straightforward. Yet, there is much room for ambiguity in the SSDI process, particularly if your medical issue is not on the list of disabling conditions. Often, the SSA believes you are still able to work, or are able to adjust to other work, even when you cannot do so.

This is where an experienced SSDI lawyer can be of great assistance. Your lawyer can present a persuasive case to the SSA as to why your claim for disability benefits should be approved, and can appeal a denial of benefits.

If you are seeking SSDI benefits, or if you have already been denied but believe your should in fact qualify for benefits, you may need legal assistance. Get in touch with an experienced SSDI attorney today to get the best shot at securing the full, fair benefits you have earned.