Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is it difficult to get an approval for SSI Disability?

It can be, and for more than one reason. First of all, the disability claim process used by the social security administration for SSD (social security disability) and SSI (supplemental security income) often takes quite a long time to get through.

This may not always be the case for those individuals who are awarded disability benefits at the initial disability application level (about 30 percent of all claims taken); however, for those individuals who are initially denied, the next step, the request for reconsideration, can add months to the process. And the appeal step that follows that, the request for a disability hearing, can add many more months, even years, to the process.

Secondly, however, there are difficulties involved in getting an approval for disability due to A) the strength of one's medical evidence and B)...the strength of one's medical evidence.

That, of course, is completely redundant. But let me explain. To receive an approval for disability, a claimant's medical evidence should ideally identify the various ways in which the claimant's condition, mental or physical, results in restrictions in normal daily activities. These restrictions are summed up in a concept known as residual functional capacity (translation: what you can still do, and, conversely, can no longer do as a result of your condition).

If your residual functional capacity (the restrictions in your normal daily activities) is limiting, it may be concluded that you do, in fact, have a severe impairment. Social security, of course, requires that your condition be severe versus something non-severe which will not meet the litmus test for the social security administration definition of disability.

If your residual functional capacity is even more limiting, then it may be concluded that you can no longer perform the duties of the jobs you have held in the past. This is based on your specific limitations and the actual requirements of your past relevant work.

Do you get disability if your limitations eliminate your ability to return to your old work? No. In fact, your condition has to be severe enough that it results in a residual functional capacity rating that effectively rules out the ability to engage in not only your past work, but also other types of work that you might otherwise be thought capable of switching to---based on your age, education, work skills, and limitations.

If your condition is this severe, that you can't go back to your old work and can't do some type of other work, you will most likely be approved for disability, as long as you are not engaged in substantial gainful work activity and, in the case of filing for SSI disability benefits, do not have assets that exceed the current resource limit (at present, $2000 of countable assets, which do not include your home of residence or your primary vehicle).

The definition of disability used by the social security administration is actually fairly straightforward and simple. However, it can be difficult to meet simply is based on your functional limitations. And what makes this hard is the fact that most doctors, even though they dictate treatment notes, usually make little reference to a claimant's functional abilities and limitations.

Without this information, disability examiners and disability judges will often look at a claimant's medical records and, even if the records are abundant, find relatively little to use that's helpful in establishing whether or not a claimant is disabled according to social security guidelines.

This is why it is often helpful to obtain a detailed statement from a claimant's treating physician, as described on these pages. Social Security Disability Residual Functional Capacity Form ,    Social Security Disability SSI and Residual Functional Capacity.

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog

Other Posts

Denial on a disability application - What comes next?
New Disability Application with Social Security
Tips for Filling out a Social Security Disability Application
Social Security Disability Appeal - Tips on the Appeals Process
Update on a Social Security Disability Application
Can I File a New Disability Application While my Case is at the Appeals Council?

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