How Does the Social Security Administration Decide If I Am Disabled?

I meet with people who need Social Security Disability Benefits two to three times a week.  Usually, they have already applied, and have been turned down.  They are disappointed and frustrated.  They worry about how they are going to take care of their families.  Almost everyone says, in one way or another, “I know a guy who gets the benefits and he is not even disabled, and I can’t work, how is that fair?”  I always say, let’s not worry about the other guy, let’s worry about you.  I then tell them about the rules the Social Security Administration uses to determine if a person is disabled. 

Most people who need disability benefits have been injured in one way or another. Some have been in car accidents with drunk drivers.  Others have been injured in a constructions accident or been in a highway accident with a semi tractor trailer.  Motorcycle accidents, vehicle accidents, electrocution, burns, it does not matter.  The injuries can be far ranging.  They include spinal cord injuries or back injuries resulting in paralysis such as paraplegia, quadriplegia, disc herniation, disc injuries, and brain injuries. Some people have heart problems, breathing problems, psychological problems.  It does not matter why the applicant has the problem.  What is important is that the person can prove, with objective medical evidence (we have discussed objective medical evidence in previous blog), they have the problem they claim to have. 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will follow a five step process to determine if you are disabled: 

1. Have you worked since you claim to have been disabled? 

2. Do you have a medically determinable impairment? 

3. If you have an impairment, is it severe, and does it meeting a listing? 

4. If you do not meet a listing do you have the residual functional capacity to work your former job(s). 

5. If you can’t do your past work, can you do any other type of work? 

This five step process is set out in the Code of Federal regulations at sections 404.1520 and following for Title Two Disability, and 416.920 and following for Title Sixteen SSI.   If you have one of the listed illnesses, injuries or disease, and it is severe enough, you will be found to be disabled.  The listings can be found 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.  CFR stands for Code of Federal Regulations.  Type 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1  into any search engine and the listings should pop up. The listings are broken down into 14 categories which include Musculoskeletal, Special Senses and speech, Respiratory,  Cardiovascular, Digestive, Genitourinary, Hematological, Skin, Endocrine, Neurological, Mental, Cancer, Immune System.

I have 21 years experience with these listings.  I have represented hundreds of claimants.  I have personally represented claimants in over 400 hearings.  I handle the cases myself.  When you hire me, I do the work.  I don’t hand you off to a paralegal.  When you call, you get me, or I call you back.  I make house calls and represent people all over the State of Indiana.  Give me a call. I can help.

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