How the SSA determines if your condition is disabling

If you suffer from a serious illness or injury that prohibits you from working, you can be eligible to receive Social Security benefits. While these benefits may not replace your income in full, they are critical to helping people support themselves and their families in light of a disabling condition.

However, in order to receive these benefits, the Social Security Administration must first confirm that your impairment is actually disabling. In order to do this, they will evaluate a number of elements regarding your claim.

  1. They will see if your condition appears on the SSA's list of impairments. That list, which can be found here, includes everything from musculoskeletal system conditions to mental disorders. 
  2. They will review your medical evidence. This includes a list of your symptoms, test results and the recommended treatment plan. Evidence must be objective and come from an "approved medical source," like a licensed physician.
  3. They will determine if the condition is fatal or expected to last for at least a year.
  4. They will assess whether you will be able to perform the functions of your job or any substantial gainful activity, which is defined as a certain amount of income you earn per month. For 2017, you must earn less than $1,170 per month to be eligible for disability benefits. If you are blind, that limit increases to $1,950.

If the SSA feels you and your condition satisfies their requirements, then they can approve your claim. All the information they review will be collected through your application, so it is vital that you submit accurate, complete information to support your request.

Because there is so much at stake when you are applying for disability benefits, it is crucial that you avoid costly mistakes. You can do this by working with an attorney who is familiar with the Social Security system and knows how to navigate the application and appeals processes.

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