There are several requirements that one must meet to be eligible for benefits in the Social Security Disability Program. In order to be qualified you must initially meet 2 criteria:
- You must have worked at a job and paid into the Social Security system for a certain length of time
- You have a medical condition that as a result leaves you “disabled” (as determined by the SSA) and unable to work.
In Florida the ultimate decision is left up to the Division of Disability Decision.
How Long Do I Have to Work to Be Eligible?
The amount of time you have to work in order to be considered for benefits is based on a table that defines your age and the length of time that you have been working.
What is Disability? How is it Defined?
The Social Security Administration defines a disability in the following:
“An inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months, 42 U.S.C. Sections 423(d)(1)(A) and 1382c(a)(3)(A).”
Social Security will talk with you doctors and ask them the following:
- What your medical condition is
- When your medical condition began;
- How your medical condition limits your activities;
- What the medical tests have shown;
- What treatment you have received; and
- Your ability to do work related activities.
They will not ask your doctor to decide if you are disabled.
How Will they Make the Final Decision?
Social Security uses a five step process. This process is defined by the Social Security Administration as:
We use a five-step process to decide if you are disabled:
- Are you working?
If you are working and your earnings average more than a certain amount each month, we generally will not consider you disabled. The amount changes each year. For the current figure, see the annual Update (Publication No. 05-10003). If you are not working, or your monthly earnings average the current amount or less, the state agency then looks at your medical condition.
- Is your medical condition “severe”?
For the state agency to decide that you are disabled, your medical condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work activities—such as walking, sitting and remembering—for at least one year. If your medical condition is not that severe, the state agency will not consider you disabled. If your condition is that severe, the state agency goes on to step three.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments?
The state agency has a List of Impairments that describes medical conditions that are considered so severe that they automatically mean that you are disabled as defined by law. If your condition (or combination of medical conditions) is not on this list, the state agency looks to see if your condition is as severe as a condition that is on the list. If the severity of your medical condition meets or equals that of a listed impairment, the state agency will decide that you are disabled. If it does not, the state agency goes on to step four.
- Can you do the work you did before?
At this step, the state agency decides if your medical condition prevents you from being able to do the work you did before. If it does not, the state agency will decide that you are not disabled. If it does, the state agency goes on to step five.
- Can you do any other type of work?
If you cannot do the work you did in the past, the state agency looks to see if you would be able to do other work. It evaluates your medical condition, your age, education, past work experience and any skills you may have that could be used to do other work. If you cannot do other work, the state agency will decide that you are disabled. If you can do other work, the state agency will decide that you are not disabled.”
Each of the five steps is very important. The law firm of Harris Guidi Rosner, P.A. will help you navigate this process in your claim for Social Security Disability Benefits.