This segment of Social Security Disability Audio addresses a question that is often asked, and perhaps, in truth, asked by every single individual who decides to file a claim for disability benefits with the social security administration. That question is “Will I be found disabled by social security?”.
To give you an idea of the statistics, roughly seven out of 10 claimants who apply for disability benefits with SSA are not found disabled initially. And of those individuals who wisely decide to appeal the denial of their initial claim, more than eight out of ten are denied again. However, for those who decide to appeal a second time, this time requesting a disability hearing before a federal judge, the odds are actually favorable that they will win their case.
As this segment of the podcast illustrates, medical records are what cases are decided on. And the content of a claimant’s medical records can serve to support a case or hinder it. Some claimants may find it helpful, prior to filing a claim for benefits, to look at their own medical records to get an idea of what their records actually say about their condition and limitations. If their records have little to nothing to say about their condition, they may find it practical to speak with their physician to see if the physician can make an attempt to record observations about their physical and/or limitations (for example, difficulty sitting, standing, stooping, crouching, bending, reaching, etc). This type of information, which relates to a disability claimant’s functional capacity, is exactly the type of information that social security looks for when it decides whether to approve or deny a disability claim. However, in all candor, it goes without saying that no one should hold their breath after asking their doctor to adjust his or her approach to recording office notes.
It’s apparent to every individual who decides to file for social security disability or SSI disability that an applicant must have an impairment of some kind, either physical or mental in nature, or a combination of impairments (that may be physical, mental, or both). Furthermore, the great majority of applicants for SSD and SSI benefits realize that the strength of an adult’s claim will hinge on the extent to which their ability to engage in work activity will be affected. However, few disability claimants typically have any concrete idea as to how the social security administration, through its use of judges and claims examiners, actually makes the determination as to whether or not a claimant can work. The answer is actually fairly simple. Disability adjudicators, the individuals who make decisions on claims (judges and examiners) evaluate a claimant’s medical records to ascertain if their impairment is severe. The records are also evaluated in an attempt to learn how the claimant’s condition functionally limits them and interferes with their ability to perform work activity. By rating a person’s current abilities and limitations, and then comparing this rating to what was required in the jobs previously held by the claimant, social security can determine whether or not a return to past work is possible. Social security also uses the claimant’s work history information and their medical information to determine if the claimant might be found capable of performing some other type of work, assuming they cannot return to their past work. However, one overriding factor in this process is whether or not the claimant worked and received earnings (or is currently working and receiving earnings) at the substantial gainful activity level. As this segment explains, SGA is a monthly earnings limit that cannot be exceeded by anyone filing for disability or receiving disability benefits. The amount is indexed to the cost of living and, therefore, does change annually.