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Qualifying for Disability Benefits

Whether you qualifying for Social Security benefits is dependent on your personal circumstances, finances and the program to which you apply. Working with an experienced Social Security disability attorney can clear-up any questions you may have. Your attorney can analyze your finances, medical records, educational records and all sources of relevant evidence in preparing your disability claim.  After reviewing all supporting information your attorney can present your claim in the most favorable light. Such actions are likely to increase your chances of a favorable determination while reducing the likelihood that you will need to engage in the lengthy appeals process.

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Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

Because the Social Security Disability program is an insurance program for workers who are no longer able to work, a sufficient work history is required. A sufficient work history consists of both sufficient duration or employment and employment that was recent. Whether the work history of an applicant can satisfy the recent work test is dependent on the age of the applicant such that if:

  • You become disabled prior to the quarter containing your 24th birthday, you must have 1.5 years of work history. The work history must have occurred during the 3 years preceding your impairment
  • You become disabled after the quarter where you reach age 24 but before the quarter you turn 31, you must have worked for at least half of the time after you turned 21.
  • You become disabled after age 31 you must have worked for 5 of the previous ten years.

Aside from recent work, you also need to have a sufficient duration of work. For a 30 year-old worker who became disabled the minimum duration of work would be 2 years. As the worker ages, the duration requirement is generally longer. For instance a 46 year-old worker would require 6 years of work history while a 60 year-old would require 9 and a half years.

Can I Qualify for Supplemental Security Benefits?

To qualify for SSI benefits you must be disabled, blind or age 65 or older. Additionally you must qualify by having limited resources and income. Because the government does not count all of the money you make and things you own, an experienced disability attorney can help you present your financial state most favorably. For instance, an attorney can advise you that the Social Security Administration does not count the first $65 dollars of income you earn through work and half of the earnings above $65. Similarly many benefits programs like SNAP or home energy assistance are not counted as income.

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The Social Security Administrations 5-Step Disability Determination Process

Regardless of whether you apply for SSD benefits, SSI benefits, or both the Social Security Administration must make a disability determination for you to qualify for benefits. For adult disability determinations, a sequential 5-step process is utilized. The steps in this determination process are:

  1.  Are you engaged in SGA? Substantial gainful activity are the things that you do to make money – like a job. If you exceed certain amounts of income, then you will be ineligible for benefits.
  2. Do you have a severe impairment? To qualify you must have one severe impairment or a combination of impairments that is severe. A severe impairment limits the things that you are able to do independently or with assistance.
  3. Are you affected by a listed condition? If not, is your condition or combination of conditions medically or functionally equivalent to a listed one?
  4. Based on your remaining functional capacity (RFC), are you able to perform your old job?  RFC describes the things you are still able to do despite your severe disability. If your RFC allows you to perform your old job, you do not qualify.
  5. Can you perform other work? The final step of the process looks for available work that is appropriate for the individual’s condition or conditions. If none exist, they qualify for disability benefits.

To qualify you must satisfy each and every stage of the sequential analysis. Should an initial determination find you ineligible for benefits, your attorney can file an appeal at multiple levels.

Your experienced social security disability attorney can help you present the strongest possible claim for each of these 5-steps. To discuss your circumstances confidentially, call Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law today at 479-439-1843 or contact us online.