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What You Need to Know About Social Security Disability

Author: Robert A. Koenigsberg Law Offices

Published: 2010-12-08

Synopsis and Key Points:

US Social Security Disability process can be confusing and overwhelming this article provides a helpful outline of the basic information you need to know on SSD.

Main Digest

The Social Security Disability process can be confusing and overwhelming. This article provides a helpful outline of the basic information you need to know.

This October the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced some positive changes to the fast-track process for disability benefits. The fast-track, or Quick Disability Determination process, is used by the most severely disabled applicants. It requires less checking on the part of the SSA because of the obviousness of disabilities.

The change focuses on identifying cases that should simply be approved for benefits without additional work by the SSA. In the past, medical reviews were required in every case, but this review is not always necessary. Now, medical reviews will only be required for cases that require fuller medical evaluation.

SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue explained to Federal News Radio that "For the people that are in these categories [who have severe disabilities], it will be a blessing, it will be quicker, it will be less paperwork...we'll free up more time with the medical doctors for some of the cases that are trickier and require more medical expertise."

The commissioner said that he hopes this will cut the approval time for severely disabled applicants in half, from two weeks to one week. By freeing up additional resources for standard cases, the hope is that processing will be faster for them as well. Standard applications can take three to five months for processing.

The Basics of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

The Quick Disability Determination process is just one component of the Social Security disability system . For those applying for disability benefits the application and approval process can often seem overwhelming and confusing. Some basics about the program are covered below:

Who is eligible

To receive benefits you must have a medical condition that meets the definition of a disability according to the SSA. The disability must be expected to prevent you from working for at least one year.

Additionally, you must have been in the workforce a minimum number of years. For those over 31, generally this requires that you have worked at least five years out of the last 10-year period ending with the time your disability began.

How is it determined if I am disabled

As discussed with the fast-track process above, some conditions are so severe you will automatically be considered disabled. Usually, however, a state agency will consult with your doctors to determine if you meet the disability requirement. They will discuss your medical condition and medical tests you have taken, as well as how your condition prevents you from doing certain activities and treatment courses.

Although your doctors will not be specifically asked if you are disabled, they will be asked about your ability to do work-related activities. Sometimes the SSA will also ask you to have additional medical exams.

What types of medical conditions are considered disabling

To be considered disabled your medical condition must significantly limit your ability to do the basic activities required to work. Examples of work activities include walking, lifting, sitting and remembering.

Examples of conditions that may qualify for benefits include cancer, severe arthritis, mental or emotional impairments, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer's disease, fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and loss of vision or hearing.

How is it determined if I can work

If the state agency finds that you are able to continue to do the work you did previously you will not be eligible for benefits. If the agency finds you are unable to do the work you did before it will consider if you can do other types of work.

When considering what work you may be able to do, the agency will take into account your health, age, past work experience, education and any other skills you may have.

If the agency finds you are disabled and unable to do any type of work, you will be approved for disability benefits.

What if I am denied

It is not uncommon for initial disability applications to be denied. If you are denied at this stage, you can appeal and request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. An attorney can be especially helpful at this stage. The attorney can work with you to advance your interests and demonstrate why you qualify for benefits.

If a judge finds you meet the disability requirement and are unable to work you will be approved for benefits.

How much are disability benefits

The monthly amount you receive will be based on your average lifetime earnings. Your spouse and children may also qualify for benefits.

What About Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) is different than Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). An important distinction is that SSI does not have a work history requirement. SSI makes monthly payments to people who have limited financial resources and are over 65, blind or disabled. Children of eligible parents or guardians may also receive SSI benefits. As with SSDI, you have the right to appeal a denial of benefits.

How Can an Attorney Help Me

The application and appeal process for SSDI and SSI can feel overwhelming. An experienced Social Security attorney can help you navigate through the necessary procedures from submitting your initial application until the final resolution of your case.

Article provided by Robert A. Koenigsberg Law Offices - Visit us at

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