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How does the Social Security Administration determine if I am disabled?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider you disabled if: (i) you have a medical condition (physical, mental, and/or psychological) that renders you unable to perform any of your past jobs, (ii) you cannot adjust to other work due to your medical condition including any job in the USA (regardless of location), and (iii) your disability has lasted (or is expected to last) for a period of twelve (12) months, or may result in death.

The SSA uses a five (5) step process to evaluate whether or not your impairment meets their criteria for being disabled.
Those five (5) steps are as follows:

  • Are you currently working? Effective 2013, if you are working and earning more than $1040 per month, you will not be considered disabled.
  • Does your medical condition prevent you from doing the work you previously performed?
  • Can you perform any other work considering your age, education, skills, and medical condition? Any job that exists in the USA is considered here, regardless of how far away from your current home.
  • Is your medical condition severe? In other words, does it significantly affect your ability to engage in certain activities such as walking, sitting, standing, stooping, bending, concentration, focus, etc.?
  • Does your injury or illness fall within the impairments in the Social Security Administration’s “List of Impairments?” The List of Impairments is a book that lists various medical conditions which automatically meet the Social Security Administration’s criteria of disabled, and provide guidelines for determining the disability of other injuries and illnesses.

Since the SSA may use the information in your medical records to determine any limitations on your ability to work, the information contained in your medical records may be critical in determining your disability claim. More often than not, your medical records will not contain adequate information regarding your functional limitations or restrictions. Therefore, it is extremely important for you to communicate information to your doctor regarding the difficulties you are experiencing and any specific limitations they impose on your abilities, such as your inability “to sit/stand/walk for more than 15 minutes,” “to bend or stoop,” “focus/concentration more than 1 hour at a time,” or your need to lay down and/or prop your legs up to reduce swelling for specific periods of time.

For purposes of eligibility for Social Security Disability, the Social Security Administration does not recognize partial disabilities or short-term disabilities.