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How Disability Is Defined by SSA?

The Social Security Disability system can be confusing and time consuming. When you are unable to work because of a physical or mental condition, this process can be overwhelming.

Larry L. Rowe has more than 30 years of experience helping people in West Virginia who are going through a difficult time in their lives. Larry is a Charleston Social Security Disability lawyer dedicated to helping people. He believes that informed clients help win cases and is dedicated to answering your questions and keeping you informed throughout your case.

What Is a 'Disability'?

When a person applies for Social Security Disability benefits or appeals a decision, the main question is whether or not the person meets the SSA definition of "disabled." Social Security has a very strict legal definition of disability. To be found disabled:

  • You must be unable to do any substantial work because of your medical condition(s); and
  • Your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year, or be expected to result in your death

In order to answer this question, there is a five-step process that must be used:

Step 1. Is the person working or "engaging in substantial gainful activity" and earning more than $1,100 per month? If so, then he or she is not eligible for benefits.

Step 2. Is the disability so severe that it significantly limits the person's ability to perform basic work activities that are needed to do most jobs. At this step, the person's ability to do basic tasks will be considered, including:

  • Walking, standing, sitting, seeing, hearing and speaking
  • The ability to understand or carry out and remember simple instructions
  • Responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers and usual work situations
  • How well does the applicant deal with changes in a routine work setting

Step 3. This stage involves a comparison between an official list of conditions and the level of "impairments" or limitations that may be expected from that diagnosis. For example, a person may be found to be disabled at this step in the process if he or she is diagnosed with diabetes and has had significant complications such as knee and foot problems as indicated in that person's medical records.

Step 4. At this stage, it is necessary to look at whether the applicant can do jobs that he or she has done in the past. If the SSA finds that a person can do his or her past work, he or she will not be eligible for benefits. If a person cannot do his or her past work, the process moves to the final step.

Step 5. The last stage is a review based on the person's age, education, work experience and physical/mental condition. All this information is considered to see what other work, if any, a person could perform. If the person could not perform any other jobs, then he or she would be eligible for disability benefits.

If at any point in this five-step analysis, the agency evaluating your application or an administrative law judge decides that your personal conditions and limitations meet the definition of a disability, the evaluation ends and you will be found eligible for benefits.

Contact Charleston SSD Administration Hearing Attorney Today

If you have questions about whether or not you might be eligible for SSI or disability benefits, contact Larry's Charleston disability law firm or call his office at 304-925-1333 to schedule a consultation.

Larry offers free consultations to persons with significant claims who would like to employ him as an attorney, with no obligation to hire. Fees for representation in Social Security Disability cases are paid only if your claim is successful and if you are eligible for a back pay award. In addition, all fees must be approved by the SSA.

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