To decide whether you are disabled, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a step-by-step process involving five questions.
Are you working?
First, you must be able to prove that you will be unable to perform any substantial gainful activity. You must be unable to perform your current job or any other job for at least a year. If you are able to find a job, then your earnings in 2011 can be no greater than $1,000 per month.
Is your disability "severe"?
Your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered. If it does not, the SSA will find that you are not disabled.
Is your disability found in the list of disabling conditions?
For each of the major body systems, the SSA maintain a list of medical conditions that are so severe they automatically mean that you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, the SSA has to decide if it is of equal severity to a medical condition that is on the list.
Can you do the work you did previously?
If your condition is severe but not at the same or equal level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then the SSA must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If it does not, your claim will be denied.
Can you do any other type of work?
If you cannot do the work you did in the past, the SSA will determine if you are able to adjust to other work. The SSA will consider your medical conditions and your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills you may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied.
If you believe that you qualify for disability benefits, then the next step is to file an initial claim for Social Security Disability benefits. The SSA denies 70% of all initial disability applications. Thus it is likely that you will have to go through the appeals stages of the disability application process. Statistics show that those who have hired a Social Security Disability attorney increase their chances of filing a successful disability claim. If you have any questions as to whether you qualify for disability benefits or need any help with the application process, please fill out our free disability evaluation to be contacted by an attorney who will evaluate your claim.