Are You Eligible For Social Security Disability Benefits?

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SSA uses a five-step evaluation process to determine SSDI eligibility

The Social Security Administration uses a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine if an individual qualifies for SSDI.

An aging population and the struggling economy are factors in the rising number of people applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, but eligibility requirements remain strict, according to Allsup, the nation’s leading SSDI representation organization.

Millions of working Americans pay for coverage under the Social Security Disability Insurance program through their payroll taxes. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), a 20-year-old worker has a 3-in-10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age. In 2010, about 3 million people applied for SSDI benefits.

Enacted into law in July 1956, SSDI is a federally mandated insurance program overseen by the SSA and is intended to provide regular monthly income to qualified people who are unable to work because of a severe disability. SSDI operates separately from the retirement program and is funded by FICA taxes.

The SSA uses a system known as sequential evaluation to determine if an individual qualifies for SSDI. The following is an explanation of the SSA’s five-step process to determine eligibility:

1.    Determine if an individual is “working (engaging in substantial gainful activity),” according to the SSA’s definition.

2.    Conclude the disability must be severe enough to significantly restrict a person’s ability to perform basic work activities needed to do most jobs. For example:

  •     Walking, standing, sitting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying or handling.
  •     Seeing, hearing and speaking
  •     Understanding/carrying out and remembering simple instructions
  •     Responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers and usual work situations
  •     Dealing with changes in a routine work setting

3.    Ask if the disability meets or equals a medical listing. For some specific conditions, the SSA uses medical listings of impairments to determine if they are severe enough to prevent an individual from doing any gainful activity.

4.    Explore the ability of an individual to perform work he has done in the past despite the disability. If the SSA determines that a person can do his past work, benefits are denied. If the applicant cannot, then the process proceeds to the fifth and final step.

5.    Review age, education, work experience and physical/mental condition to determine what other work, if any, the person can perform. To determine disability, the SSA enlists medical-vocational rules, which vary according to age.

To get assistance with an application, a disability appeal or for a free evaluation of SSDI eligibility, contact the Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 678-3276.

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis.

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Rebecca Ray
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