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Do You Qualify For Benefits?

The Five Step Disability Process

When a Social Security attorney accepts your disability case, you should make sure to first discuss the process that the case must go through before you receive approval. Understanding the process and everything it entails will allow you to go through each step of the process with ease.

What Happens When You First Apply

When you submit your application, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will send your case file to a Disability Determination Service (DDS) within your state to see if you meet the disability requirements of that state. When the case is received, a case administrator that is either a M.D. or a D.O. will review the medical records to determine the severity of your disability. The Social Security Administration has implemented a five-step process that must be adhered to for each case. Each of these five steps must be addressed and addressed in a specific order. Understanding these five steps is crucial to the success of your case.

Step 1: Can You Be Considered As Being Involved in Substantial Gainful Activity?

The SSA wants to determine if you have worked since you became disabled or since you applied for benefits. Under Social Security guidelines, with a few exceptions, any income over a certain amount ($1,321.00 per month as of 2021) is considered gainfully employed and you will not qualify for benefits. If you are making less than this amount, or you are not employed because of your disability, your case will proceed to Step 2.  

Step 2: Severity of Your Disability

The next step is to determine how severe your impairments are and whether they more than minimally limit your abilities. If your disability is rated as not severe, your case is automatically dismissed. Merely having a diagnosis is not the same as having a severe impairment. Whether that diagnosis results in an impairment that affects your ability to work is the key question. If the examiner rates your disability as severe, your case is moved to the next step of the process.

Step 3: Is Your Disability on the List of Impairments?

The Listing of Impairments is a guide used by the SSA to see if your impairment meets or exceeds their specific medical criteria for disability. This document is based on Federal regulations and is the same for every case. The examiner will take the facts of your disability and compare it to the list to determine if it meets or exceeds their requirements for being disabled. If any of your impairments meet or equal the requirements found on this list, you are determined to be disabled and unable to perform substantial work.​

At this point, if you are determined to be disabled, your case is approved. However, if your impairments are not found on the list or classified as an equal standard your case moves to Step 4.

Step 4: Can You Perform Your Former Job Duties?

If your impairments did not meet the qualifications of the impairment list, the case examiner will look at the type of work you did prior to applying for benefits and determine if your impairments prevent you from doing the same work. For example, if you have been diagnosed with arthritis in your back and your job requires heavy lifting throughout the day, your impairment may prevent you from completing your job duties. The examiner must have knowledge of your former job to make this assessment. If it is determined that your impairment prevents you from doing your job, your case moves to Step 5.

Step 5: Can You Work Another Job?

The SSA will then require the examiner to make a determination if you can perform other job duties that may not be as physically or mentally demanding. The examiner must determine if there is any other type of work you could perform in the country. It is very important to understand that SSA does not have to determine a specific job, or whether or not it is of equal pay to what you used to earn, whether it is something you want to do as an occupation, if it is near your home, or if you have the proper training. They just need to determine if you can work. This applies to all cases unless you are over the age of 50, then the SSA may find that a change of jobs is not recommended based on age and experience and the need to retrain. However, if you have had any recent training or education, or if your skills can apply to current jobs, the examiner may overlook the age of exception and make a ruling that you can perform other duties. It should be noted that the SSA is not responsible for finding you a job, securing training for you for a new position, or relocating you if the jobs you qualify for are not in your area.

Speak to a Chicago Social Security Attorney Today

As you can see, filing for Social Security disability benefits can be a very long and complicated process. Daley Disability Law, PC understands this area of law and can help you maneuver through the application process. Whether you have just begun the application process, or you have been denied benefits and are ready to make an appeal, the attorneys at Daley Disability law are ready to review your case. Schedule a free consultation and have your case reviewed by an experienced attorney. There are never any upfront fees, and you only pay if we successfully get your application approved. We believe that by working on a contingency basis, everyone will have access to quality legal services, regardless of their current financial condition.

Do You Qualify For Benefits?: Specialty
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