Disability 411

What is Disability Insurance?

Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) pays monthly benefits to workers who are no longer able to work due to a significant illness or impairment that is expected to last at least a year or to result in death within a year. It is part of the Social Security program that also pays retirement benefits to the vast majority of older Americans.

Can I get Disability Insurance?

The SSA has created a five-step process to determine whether an application for SSD is approved. The criteria include the following:

Step One: Is the Applicant Working?

The SSA will not consider a person for disability if they make more than a specified amount each month. If they make less than the designated amount, the SSA will take a more in-depth look at the applicant’s medical condition.

Step Two: Is the Applicant’s Medical Condition Severe?

For the SSA to rule the applicant “disabled,” the medical condition must prevent the applicant from performing basic functions of work for at least a year. If this is the case, the SSA will look at step three.

Step Three: Is the Applicant’s Medical Condition on the SSA’s “list of disabling conditions?”

If the applicant’s medical condition is not on the list of illnesses that automatically qualify for disability, the SSA will check to see if the condition is as severe as those on the list. If the condition does not fit the list, the SSA will look at step four. Some of the SSA’s disabling conditions include:

Law Talk Mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, autism, depression, panic attacks, anxiety, schizophrenia, PTSD;
Law Talk Musculoskeletal system problems such as back and spine conditions, arthritis, amputations, fractures, carpal tunnel syndrome, scoliosis, fibromyalgia;
Law Talk Skin disorders such as psoriasis, burns, ichthyosis;
Law Talk Respiratory illnesses such as asthma, emphysema, PPH, cystic fibrosis, lung transplant;
Law Talk Immune system disorders such as MS, HIV/AIDS, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis;
Law Talk Digestive tract problems such as Crohn’s Disease, liver disease, hepatitis, IBD;
Law Talk Impairments that affect multiple body systems such as lyme disease, metabolic disorders;
Law Talk Senses and speech issues such as vision, hearing, and speech loss;
Law Talk Endocrine disorders such as diabetes, thyroid problems, neuropathy, obesity;
Law Talk Cardiovascular conditions such as heart failure or coronary artery disease;
Law Talk Neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy, stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI) Parkinson's disease, and epilepsy;
Law Talk Genitourinary impairments such as chronic renal (kidney) disease, chronic hemodialysis;
Law Talk Hematological disorders such as sickle cell disease, hemophilia, myelofibrosis; and
Law Talk Malignant neoplastic diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, most kinds of cancer.

Step Four: Can the Applicant Perform the Work They Did Before?

The agency will review the applicant’s claim and decide, based on the applicant’s injury, whether they are capable of performing the work they did before the injury. If they cannot, the SSA will move to step 5.

Step Five: Is the Applicant Capable of Performing Any Other Work?

The SSA will review the applicant’s age, medical condition, education, past work experience, and skills to determine if they can perform gainful employment in a different capacity. If the applicant is not physically capable of performing other work, the SSA will rule the applicant “disabled.”

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