Dealing with the paperwork of disability benefits can be as complicated as trying to cope with a serious health problem. As we’ve explained in our Social Security Disability Guide, the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines if you or a loved one is entitled to financial assistance. However, things may get a bit more complicated if you’re suffering from more than one medical problem that affects your ability to earn a steady income, also known as a Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). You may not know it, but a combination of several ailments can make a person eligible for thousands of dollars in social security benefits.
Is Your Impairment Severe?
First, it is important to determine what constitutes a disability in the eyes of the SSA. For an ailment or a combination of ailments to be considered severe (and therefore eligible for benefits), the condition has to be grave enough to substantially hinder a person’s ability to perform the duties of most forms of employments. These tasks include:
- Walking, bending, or lifting.
- Seeing, listening or speaking.
- Listening to and remembering instructions.
- Interacting with staff members or the public.
Non-severe medical conditions are defined as those which make a slight difference in physical or mental characteristics, but do not have a significant effect on an individual’s capacity for work. As we’ll address in the following section, these conditions can help solidify a person’s claim for disability payments.
The severity of the health impairments (or a combination thereof) must be sufficiently backed by evidence. For example:
- Records of long-time medical care.
- Efforts made in the diagnosis process.
- The professional opinion of a licensed physician regarding the patient’s ability to join the workforce.
- SSA medical examiner disability application
- Mixed Effects of Different Conditions
The sum of multiple non-severe conditions can be translated into an affected capacity for work, thereby making a claimant potentially eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The SSA will search for a match between the Listing of Impairments (also known as the “Blue Book”) and your disabling condition.
The body works as a group of systems. That’s why the effects of a disease which causes chronic pain (such as disabling arthritis), and another illness that affects the respiratory system (such as disabling asthma), can be combined to affect the entire body. Together, these otherwise non-severe combined effects can hurt a person’s chances of making a living — especially when taking into account the costs of medicine and professional care. This can lead to a valid claim for disability aid. To put the same idea into other terms, the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.
In addition to effects on the claimant, the element of time is another factor to be considered when evaluating multiple ailments and their connection to disability. As with any regular claim, the condition stated as the cause should have lasted, or be expected to last, 12 months or more. The SSA will determine if the group of conditions meets the 12-month requirement. If the SSA finds that one or more of the claimant’s conditions is likely to improve during that period of time, the application may initially be rejected. Fortunately, if a claimant is rejected, he or she can go through the disability appeals process.
Combining Mental and Physical Impairments
Over the course of time, mental health conditions have garnered the awareness they deserve in society as ailments that can affect an individual’s function in society. According to the SSA’s guidelines, mental conditions are also taken into consideration in disability cases where they can increase the severity of certain symptoms.
For example, a patient who suffers from chronic disabling depression will surely have a more difficult time dealing with a less severe case of Chronic Fatigue Disorder (CFD). When combined, the two ailments can render a person unable to normally perform the tasks of his or her previous job. To provide another example, a person suffering from frequent panic attacks and generalized anxiety who also suffers from hypertension is likely to experience spikes in blood pressure and other direct effects on his or her health.
Disability applications can be tricky, and require a careful eye for detail. You can increase your chances of success by getting in touch with a qualified social security attorney, who can guide you through the pitfalls and help you get the assistance you deserve.
Rely on Our SSDI Experience in Northwest Arkansas
Fayetteville AR disability lawyer Ken Kieklak is dedicated to fighting for hard-working people who have had to stop work due to a serious illness or injury. To schedule a free and confidential SSDI consultation contact us at (479) 316-0438 today or contact us online.