How to Qualify for Disability Benefits

Posted on: June 8th, 2015 by Mark R. Friedman

A lot of folks wonder whether they might qualify for disability benefits.

To qualify for the most important federal benefits – Social Security Disability, Medicare, Medicaid and SSI – you must be over age 65, blind, or disabled. The first two categories are pretty obvious (you’re either over age 65 or you’re not!), but the last category is much more fluid. How can you tell whether someone is disabled?

More importantly, how can the Social Security Administration tell whether you’re disabled?

To qualify for the main federal disability benefits, you have to meet the Social Security Administration (SSA) definition of “disabled,” which is:  You are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity because of a medical condition expected to last longer than a year or result in death.

What does that mean in plain language? Basically, it means you’re unable to work and support yourself because of a medical condition that’s usually long term or fatal.

The question isn’t whether you’re actually working now. It’s whether you can work; whether you’re capable of working in light of the limitations imposed by your medical condition.

SSA has a listing of medical conditions that it considers disabling, and the list is very broad – everything from anemia to zoster, from cancer to depression to autism. However, just having a medical condition is not enough. You must prove that you have symptoms that are debilitating enough that they prevent you from working.

In evaluating whether you can work, SSA looks first to your medical records. When you apply for disability benefits, SSA may ask you to submit medical records. If SSA requires additional information, they may ask that you be examined by their doctors. A lot of people think they can establish disability by submitting evidence from family members, teachers, former supervisors, etc. But really, first and foremost it’s about what your treating physicians say.

At FriedmanLaw, we have familiarity with the laws and regulations around disability benefits. We may be able to help you understand what SSA is looking for and tailor your application to that standard. If you’re interested in learning more about qualifying for disability benefits, we’d be happy to speak with you. Call or email us.

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Homepage photo: Cows grazing at Meadowbrook Farm, Bernardsville, NJ by Siddharth Mallya. October 23, 2012.
Interior photo: Somerset hills pastoral scene by Lawrence Friedman.