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Do I Qualify for Disability Benefits?

Posted on February 17, 2016Posted By Russell & Hill, PLLCPosted In SSD

Have you been wondering if you or a loved one might qualify for disability benefits? Many people are unsure of what the requirements are in order to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Our team of SSD attorneys in Everett, WA have been able to help our clients receive the financial assistance that they need. Maybe we can help you too — keep reading to learn more about how to qualify for disability benefits.

Focus on Level of Functioning

Some claimants may be awarded benefits because they have a particular medical impairment identified by Social Security and they meet specific factors outlined by the agency. However, most claimants will not be granted benefits in this way. Instead, the focus becomes the severity of the claimant’s medical impairment and the claimant’s level of functioning. This is important because almost every type of condition can vary in how it impacts an individual.

For instance, a person may show severe degenerative disc disease on an MRI of their back, but they may have minimal pain and limitation. Meanwhile, someone else may be significantly limited by that same degree of degeneration. As another example, a person may suffer from Major Depressive Disorder but function quite well with medication management, while another person may be greatly limited in their functioning.

Any person considering applying for disability benefits should first think about how she/he is functioning with her/his medical impairment. Some questions a potential claimant should consider:

  • How is your daily life impacted?
  • Are there things you are not able to do now that you could do before the onset of your disability?
  • To what extent are you limited?

Generally speaking, a claimant must be able to prove that she cannot do her past work or any other type of full-time work. A claimant should look back at her past work over the last 15 years and consider whether she can do any of those jobs now. If you want to apply for benefits, you should be prepared to explain why you cannot do any of those jobs. A claimant will generally have to also show that she cannot do any other type of full-time work even if she has no prior experience or training in a different area.

For example, even if a claimant previously worked in construction and had to be on her feet most of the day and lift 100+ pounds, she will also have to show that she cannot do a job that may be easier on her body (e.g. working as a cashier). However, the rules change as you age. A claimant age 50 or over may still be successful if she cannot do her past work but some other jobs are available to her.

Proof of Medical Impairment Diagnosis

In order to qualify for benefits, a claimant must be able to show a firm diagnosis of her medical impairment with sufficient medical records to support that diagnosis. The rules require that an acceptable medical source (i.e., a MD, DO, PsyD, DPM, OD, SLP, rather than a PA-C, ARNP, DC, LMHC, etc.) diagnose the medical impairment.

Of course, the more documentation the claimant has to support her diagnosis, the better. The claimant should have signs, symptoms, lab findings, examination findings, imaging, and/or testing to support her diagnosis and help demonstrate the severity of her condition. The impairment must be expected to result in death, or be expected to last at least 12 months.

Meeting the Technical Requirements

There are several types of possible benefits a claimant can apply for, including: SSD, Disabled Widow(er), Disabled Adult Child, SSI, and Child’s SSI.

The claims have different eligibility requirements and potential benefits. SSI, for example, is a needs-based program and requires an eligible individual to be under a certain financial threshold, considering income and resources. SSD, on the other hand, has no such financial threshold.

However, unlike SSDI, there is no requirement that a claimant must have worked in the past to be eligible for SSI. For SSD, an individual generally must have worked five out of the last ten years to be eligible to apply. For both SSI and SSD, an individual must show that she has had at least a 12 month period when she did not engage in substantial gainful activity because of her medical impairment. In other words, this means that she did not work and earn $1,130/month pre-taxes for 2016 or $1,090/month in 2015. The type of claim an individual may apply for will depend on her particular set of circumstances, such as the individual’s work history and degree of financial need.

Finding The Help You Need

If you feel that you may qualify for social security disability, we would love to be your resource to get the financial assistance that you need. Contact our team at Russell and Hill, LLC to talk to one of our dedicated SSD attorneys.

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