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Practice Definitions  | Social Security & Disability

Social Security & Disability

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The U.S. federal government, through the Social Security Administration (SSA), provides benefits for people who have become disabled and no longer able to perform substantial, gainful work. If you are medically disabled and unable to work, you must file a claim with the SSA to obtain these benefits. The SSA decides if you qualify and, if so, you will get monthly payments. If the SSA turns you down, you can appeal their decision.

Do you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits? There are several benefit types, including DIB (Disability Insurance Benefits) also called RSDI (Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance), SSI (Supplemental Security Income). The basic test of disability for all these programs is the same. The SSA asks five questions, and there are very specific definitions that the SSA uses for each stage:
  1. Are you working and making substantial earnings (SGA)? If so, you do not qualify.
  2. If you are not working, do you have a "severe impairment" which interferes with your work activity? If not, you do not qualify. If so, go to step 3.
  3. If you have a severe impairment, is it a "medical impairment" as defined by the SSA in one of its Medical Listings of Impairments? If so, you are "disabled" and may qualify for benefits. If not, go to step 4.
  4. Do you have an impairment which so disables you that you can't perform your "past relevant work" (work you've done within the past 15 years)? If you are able to do your past work (even as it is generally done by others) you are not considered to be disabled by SSA standards. If you cannot perform your past relevant work because of your impairment(s) go to step 5.
  5. If you cannot perform your previous work, does your impairment keep you from doing any other kind of work? If the answer is yes, you are "disabled" according to SSA standards and entitled to receive benefits.
This process can be very complex - one key is persistence. If you've already applied and been turned down, you need to keep going. You need to appeal.

The other key is to have an experienced Social Security lawyer by your side throughout the application process, preferably from the very beginning.
Should I hire a lawyer?
If you are denied on your Initial Claim, you should get an attorney to provide representation and help you with your claim for continuing and past due benefits (back pay). The reason you need a lawyer is because a claimant will, typically, either be approved on an initial application. If the claim is denied, the claimant will typically be forced to follow the appeal route, at least to the point where their case is brought before an Administrative Law Judge at a social security disability hearing.

Initial claims are typically denied 60 to 70 percent of the time, depending on the state in which you filed, so chances are you'll end up in the hearing. And, you never want to end up in a hearing with no attorney representation. Use the State Lawyers Directory to find a Social Security/Disability Lawyer to assist you with your claim and represent you if it is denied and you end up having to go to the hearing.
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