What You Need to Prove to get Social Security Disability
Social Security Disability (and SSI) benefits are generally available for individuals who have disabilities that have lasted or are expected to last at least a year. Social Security has a five step sequential analysis it applies to determine eligibility.
Step One considers whether or not you are engaged in substantial gainful activity. If you are working and your earnings average more than a certain amount each month, Social Security generally will not consider you disabled.
Step Two considers the “severity” of your medical condition(s). Your medical condition(s) must significantly interfere with your ability to do basic work activities.
Step Three considers whether your particular medical impairments are found among a List of Impairments which automatically qualify you for benefits. Social Security maintains a List of Impairments for certain various illnesses and conditions which trigger automatic entitlement. Securing specific medical documentation from treating doctors is essential to proving entitlement under one of the Listings. (There are also special rules for blind persons to consider.)
Step Four. For those who do not meet a Listing, Social Security then considers whether a claimant can perform his or her past relevant work within the previous 15 years. If you are able to perform this previous work, you will be considered not disabled and not entitled to benefits.
Step Five considers whether you are able to perform any other work given your medical conditions, age, education, past work experience and transferable skills. The Social Security statute states it doesn’t matter whether anyone would hire you for various jobs; the test is whether or not jobs, regardless of pay, exist which you have the ability to perform. Social Security nevertheless has certain presumptions or “Grid Regulations” about what work a person will not be capable of doing given their age, education and transferable skills. If you are over 50 or over 55, these Social Security regulations can be utilized to argue that you as a matter of law are disabled and entitled to benefits.