The Law Office of Drozdowski & Rabin, PLLC The Law Office of Drozdowski & Rabin, PLLC

Determining Disability

Do You Qualify?

The severity of an applicant’s impairments are just one aspect of the Social Security application process. In addition to outlining an applicant’s medical history, qualifying for Social Security benefits can require an evaluation of a person’s vocational or educational background and assets. Our Knoxville Social Security disability attorneys can help you determine what your chances are of qualifying and what documentation needs to be submitted with your application.

What Social Security Considers

A disabled claimant may qualify for benefits through Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both programs require applicants to meet minimum disability requirements based on listings found in the SSA’s Blue Book. The differences between the two benefits programs lie in the applicant’s earned work credits (collected over years of earning taxable income), and their countable assets. Claims are usually filed concurrently to both programs, which means an application is filled out for each program simultaneously.

Medical Evaluation

Social Security defines disability as a severe physical or mental condition that has lasted or is expected to last for at least one full year, is considered permanent, or will likely result in death. To be recognized as a disability by the SSA, a person’s mental or physical impairment must also interfere with ‘substantial gainful activities’ (SGA). For adults, substantial gainful activities are represented with a dollar amount; a different income limit is set each year and used as a benchmark of assessment. Rather than looking to income as a marker for applicants under 18, the SSA will instead consider the severity of a minor’s functional limitations.

A claimant’s medical condition will be evaluated using the guidelines outlined in the SSA’s Blue Book (also known as the Listing of Impairments). The Blue Book lists only the most common and severe conditions. A person whose specific impairment (or group of impairments) does not appear in the listing can apply under an equivalent listing. Substantial medical evidence needs to be provided, often including medical reports, the dates of hospital stays, treatments that have been tried, and the results of said treatments.

Vocational Evaluation

Social Security reviews a claimant’s work history and medical records to determine if their condition results in functional limitations, and how these limitations impair their ability to engage in work activity. If an individual is found to be limited to the extent that they cannot work in any one of their past jobs, or reasonably switch to another type of work, he or she will generally be found to be disabled.

Work Credits

SSDI is intended for individuals who have previously worked and paid into the Social Security system via their taxes. The specific tax which counts towards SSA programs can be found listed on employees’ pay stubs as a FICA line item. Work credits are assessed proportionate to the number of years a person has worked. In some cases, such as with DWB or DAC benefits, a deceased spouse or parent’s accumulated work credits may count towards the claimant’s case.

Personal Assets

As a need-based program, SSI applicants will need to demonstrate that their total countable assets fall within a certain range. The SSA has set a $2,000 limit for individuals filing for SSI benefits. The SSA’s limit for married individuals is $3,000. While these limits may seem low, keep in mind that not all assets can be counted. Primary residences, scholarships, and certain kinds of financial aid are examples of assets which are not considered by the SSA.

Should I Consult with an Attorney?

You do not need to hire an attorney, as you can file a disability claim on your own. However, the prospect of receiving a denial of the initial claim is high – around 75%. The chances of the second appeal being successful will be a great deal better – more than 60% – when a Knoxville Social Security disability attorney is involved.

Call Our Knoxville Social Security Disability Attorneys

Because each successive filing becomes more complicated than the previous, we strongly recommend discussing your case with an attorney who specializes in disability claims before filing your initial claim. At Drozdowski and Rabin, we have a long history of success in helping our clients receive the benefits they are entitled to, and we are prepared to help you be successful as well. Give us a call today.

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