The SSA Maze: Qualifying for Social Security Disability

Jay Stillman

3 min read

Social Security Disability Nashville
Photo: Staff Sgt. James Wagner [Public Domain]
Stillman and Friedland have an excellent team of disability attorneys and paralegals, ready to help you navigate the murky waters of Social Security Disability (SSD) if you have been injured and can no longer work. SSD applications have grown as Workers’ Compensation in general has dwindled and many employees who have been injured on the job can no longer work due to their injuries/disabilities. There are also many cases where disability is related to traumatic injury or conditions which impair one’s ability to work.

This may all seem complicated, but worry not! Stillman and Friedland are here to help you throughout the process.

How does the Social Security Administration (SSA) determine if you qualify for SSD?

Let’s look at their Five-Step Process, which is designed to separate out applicants:

  1. Are you currently working? If you are working, you cannot qualify for SSD.
  2. Do you have either a single severe injury that prevents you from working, or a combination of problems that combined prevent you from working?
  3. Does your severe impairment equal or meet the SSA’s list of impairments? The SSA’s impairment listing manual, also known as the “Blue Book,” contains a list of these conditions. Your impairment or disabling condition must be either the same as those the SSA recognizes or clearly comparable. If not, your application will be rejected.
  4. Are you capable of performing the same work-related tasks you did previously? This may mean that if you did physical labor, and can no longer do so, you may qualify, but if you had a desk job, and can still do office work, you will not qualify. The SSA has a test which is called the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) test which rates your ability to perform work relevant to your work experience in the 15 years prior to your claimed disability.
  5. Can you do any other work? Here, the SSA looks at a number of factors, which it calls the “Grid Rules.” Under these rules, other factors come into play, such as your age, level of education, communication skills, and more.

While some individuals may qualify at step 3, others will have to go through the process of getting an RFC test rating and being evaluated under the Grid Rules for physical disabilities and impairments.

Mental disabilities do not use the Grid, but you still have to be deemed unfit to work by your treating physician and/or SSA’s physician or at the very least, be on strict restrictions that prevents you from finding Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA).

Please note that any disabilities you claim must be diagnosed by your physician in the last 12 months or longer to qualify for SSD/I in coordination with the qualifications listed above.

This is a very simple summary of the SSD application process. In practice, the forms are very complex, the regulations are extensive, and in many cases, those who qualify for SSD are simply not capable of completing the application process without experienced professional assistance. Failure to present your information correctly can result in your claim being denied. Having an attorney handle the claim for you means your application will present your claim fully and in accordance with SSA regulations.

The benefit for you in using an attorney to file your claim means that you are presenting your best argument for disability benefits to the SSA with the least inconvenience. At Stillman and Friedland, we have a competent and caring team of professionals with a proven track record of getting benefits for deserving clients. And remember that by law, attorney/representative fees related to SSD claims are limited and established for your protection.

Don’t risk losing the benefits you need from the system you paid into all your working life — call Stillman and Friedland today at 616-244-2111.

Because we care…