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.
Disability Audio looks at all physical and mental impairments the same way. In other words, to be approved for disability benefits on the basis of one or more conditions, the condition must be severe enough that it prevents an individual from being able to perform substantial gainful work activity for a year or longer, or be severe enough that it may possible result in death.
Stress is not a condition that is listed in the SSA blue book; however, when most individuals list “stress” on a claim for disability, they are referring to an anxiety related disorder. Anxiety disorders do have their own section in the impairment listing manual for consideration.
In any event, disability examiners base their determinations on what the medical records have to say about a claimant’s condition, versus what the claimant has to say about their condition. More specifically, examiners use the information contained in the records to rate a claimant’s residual functional capacity, a rating of what a person can still do and can no longer do. Functional capacity ratings including physical ratings and mental ratings.
How are functional capacity ratings used? Essentially, by gauging what an individual is presently capable of doing and comparing it the physical and/or mental requirements of jobs that, in the view of the social security administration, a person might be capable of doing.
Of course, it should be noted that individuals who are filing for disability based on stress or some type of anxiety disorder should attempt to get treatment from a mental health professional. Social Security decision makers generally look for treatment records from a mental health treatment professional that establish a longitudinal history of diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.