Social Security Disability (SSD) in Atlanta
According to the United States Census Bureau, there were an estimated 56.7 million Americans with a disability in the United States in 2010, but not all of these people have a disability that is severe enough warrant an award of Social Security Disability benefits. However, every year thousands of Americans, after a lengthy battle with the Social Security Administration in most cases, are awarded Social Security Disability (SSD) Benefits. For example, According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), there were approximately 762,141 cases where disability benefits were awarded in 2017.
Despite all of the awards that are issued throughout the country every year, the number of denials issued on an annual basis certainly outnumbers the awards issued by a substantial margin, but most people are aware that getting approved for disability benefits is not an easy task. However, the average person that applies for disability benefits is unaware of how their claim is evaluated by the SSA, and this can leave you feeling confused and frustrated.
How is my Disability Claim Evaluated?
It is important for you to understand that the Social Security Administration is a federal administrative agency. As such, the evaluation process for applications for SSD benefits is codified under the Code of Federal Regulations. This means that the evaluation process should be the same regardless of which state you apply in. The Social Security Administration uses a five step sequential evaluation process, and your claim must meet the appropriate criteria at each step to move on to the next. If your claim does not meet the criteria at one step, it will be denied without considering whether or not it meets the criteria at the next step in the evaluation process.
The Social Security Disability Evaluation Process
Step One: Are You Engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity?
The first step of the evaluation process is to determine whether or not you are engaging in substantial gainful activity. Generally, the SSA will focus on the amount of wages you’re earning each month before taxes, and the SSA sets the amount that an individual can earn per month and still be eligible for SSD benefits every year. For example, the maximum you could earn per month and still be eligible for SSD benefits in 2018 was $1,180 in gross wages. The maximum amount of gross wages you could earn and still be eligible for SSD benefits in 2019 will be $1,220 in gross wages.
So, if you have not been working since the day you first became disabled, you certainly have not engaged in substantial gainful activity, but if you have been working, you need to closely analyze all of your earnings and submit a copy of them to the SSA for them to review with your application. There is also a limit on the number of hours you can work per week, but the hours worked limit should be discussed with a Social Security Disability Attorney due to the fact that the limit can change depending on the facts of your employment.
Step Two: Do You Have a Severe Impairment?
At step two, the SSA will consider whether or not you have one or more severe physical or mental impairments that limit your ability to perform work activities. If you have multiple impairments, which is common, the SSA will also consider the combined effect your impairments have on your ability to perform work activities. In addition, your impairment(s) must meet the duration requirement for a physical or mental impairment, which simply means that the impairment must have lasted or must be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.
Step Three: Do One or More of Your Impairments Meet or Equal a Listing
The SSA has defined impairments that are severe enough to warrant a finding of disabled by the SSA. These definitions are called listings, but many impairments, when considered by themselves, do not meet the Social Security Administration’s listing by definition. However, the second half of the step “equal a listing” is what is used in most situations. This means that if the combined effect of your impairments meets the severity of one or more of the Social Security Administration’s listings, then you can be found to be disabled. Moreover, if the SSA does not have a listing for your specific disease, but the ailment you have effects you in a manner that is equal in severity to one of the Social Security Administration’s listings, you can still be found to be disabled.
Step Four: Can You Still Perform Your Past Relevant Work?
At step four, the SSA must determine whether or not you can perform your past relevant work given the restrictions your physical or mental impairment places on your activities. The SSA defines your past relevant work as the work you have performed within the last 15 years that would be considered substantial gainful activity and that you did for a period that was long enough for you to learn how to do it. The length of time needed for you to learn a job depends on the type of job you had. If you have questions about what qualifies as past relevant work, you should always discuss your past jobs with your Social Security Disability Attorney.
Step Five: Can You Perform Work in the National Economy?
At step one through four, the burden of proving that you meet the criteria of disabled at these steps falls on you. At step five however, the burden of proof shifts to the SSA to prove that there is work available in great number that you could perform in the national economy. If the SSA cannot demonstrate this, they must find that you are disabled, but if they are successful in demonstrating that there is work available in great numbers that you could perform in the national economy, the SSA can use this as the basis for denying you benefits.
Social Security Disability Attorneys in Atlanta, GA
The process for filing and successfully obtaining disability benefits can be complex and frustrating, but the Social Security Disability attorneys at Cambre and Associates stand ready to help you. Our lawyers will explain the application process, help file appeals, and if needed, represent you at a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. So call our office today for a free consultation to find out how a Social Security Disability Attorney can help you.