There are generally five questions that are used to determine whether you are eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The Disability Determination Service (DDS) for your particular state will evaluate these issues when the Social Security Administration (SSA) forwards your case to DDS. The inquiries may consist of the following:
- “Are You Engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity?”
- “How Severe Are Your Impairments?”
- “Do You Meet the Listing of Impairments?”
- “Can You Do Your Prior Job?”
- “Can You Do Any Other Job?”
Even if you would otherwise qualify for a disability, there are specific monetary cut-offs that may still disqualify you from obtaining SSDI. Generally, the monthly monetary amount that may be classified as “substantial gainful activity” is a minimum of $1,130, as reported in 2016. If your salary is at or above this amount, you are likely to be barred from receiving benefits.
The overarching issue to be decided is whether the medical condition that you suffer from is “severe.” This decision is grounded on a thorough evaluation by a medical examiner or other professional.
Your medical conditions may also be classified as “severe” in the aggregate. If your disability is “mild,” or does not “significantly limit the work you could do,” you will be denied from any receipt of benefits. Furthermore, if your condition can be rectified with drugs or medical devices, you will be similarly rejected.
The criteria under 20 C.F.R. Part 404, otherwise known as the “Listing of Impairments,” will be consulted as a further means of determining whether your condition meets the “severity” threshold. However, every disability that qualifies for SSDI is not specifically itemized under these federal regulations. If your particular condition does not line up with the list, there is still hope—you may qualify if your condition “equals” one of the designated listings.
Even still, your “residual functional capacity” must be measured as well—this is the extent you can functionally perform at work, notwithstanding the disability. For example, if you were employed in a different industry in the past, and you are deemed physically and mentally capable of performing your old job, then your condition will be removed from the “severe” category. Likewise, if you are under the age bracket of fifty, your medical examiner may even determine that you are capable of performing alternative jobs. If other work is available that does not interfere with your impairment, your claim may be rejected.
In assessing the above five-step process, an attorney can estimate whether your case will be successful or aid you in appealing a rejected claim.