More than 4.2-million people receive disability benefits under Social Security disability programs and more than 2-million people apply each year. However, about one of three people who apply qualify for benefits under the programs. One reason is that, unlike other disability programs, Social Security pays only for total, long-term disability, not partial disability or conditions that last fewer than five months. Social Security defines disability in terms of the ability to work. A person who cannot work for a year or more, or whose condition is likely to result in death, may qualify for benefits. Those who do not fit this definition are not considered disabled.
Disability is determined by doctors and disability examiners at state agencies based on clinical evidence and examinations. The process of determining disability involves five basic questions. They are:
Are you working? If you are and are earning at least $500 a month, you will not be considered disabled.
Is your condition severe? If your impairments do not interfere with basic work-related activities, your claim will be denied.
Is the condition severe enough to meet the "Listing of Impairments"? Social Security maintains a list of impairments for each major body system The impairments are so severe they automatically qualify you as disabled. If your condition is not on the list, Social Security must determine if it affects you in performing work-related activities in the same way as a condition on the list.
Can you do the work you did previously?
If you cannot do the work you did previously, then can you do any other type of work? Social Security looks to see if you can do any other work. Your age, education, past experience and transferable skills are considered and the job demands determined by the U.S. Department of Labor are reviewed. If you cannot work, you will be found disabled. Under this process, one person may qualify for disability benefits and another person with the same condition may not, based on the difference in their work.
People who want more information about how to qualify for disability benefits should call the nearest Social Security office at (800) 234-5772.
Gary D. York is a field representative of the Social Security Administration. You may write to him at P.O. Box 4898, Clearwater 34618.