Social Security Disability benefits are a necessity for many people in Indiana. Their injuries, illness or condition has left them unable to work and wondering about the future. However, getting benefits often seems intimidating from the start.
There are requirements as part of the application process. At the outset of a claim, applicants need to know how the Social Security Administration and its Disability Determination Services will make its decision on whether to approve the application. There is no reason to be fearful about the process, but it is imperative to understand how it works.
There are five steps an applicant must complete
The SSA uses a five-step evaluation process when a person applies for benefits. After a person proves they meet the criteria at each step, they move on to the next one until they have completed the requirements and the case can proceed.
The first question the SSA asks is if the applicant is working. If they are performing what is known as Substantial Gainful Activity and they are earning more than a certain amount, they will not be considered disabled and the case will be denied. The amount is updated annually. For 2023, it is $1,470 per month for people who are not blind.
If the amount falls below SGA, the medical condition is considered. It must be categorized as “severe” to warrant benefits. If the person is limited in what they can do in a work setting, then they could be classified as having a severe condition and move on in the case. For example, most jobs require a person to stand, sit, walk and remember. If they are impaired and the impairment stops them from performing these requirements for a minimum of 12 months, they might be viewed as meeting the threshold.
The SSA has a Listing of Impairments that it uses to assess applicants. On it are a series of conditions, illnesses and ailments. If the person meets the requirements of one or more of the Listings, they can get benefits. For example, if a person has a back injury or suffers from a disease like cancer, then the Listings will be considered to determine severity and if they are disabled.
The fourth step is asking if the person can do the same type of work they did previously. A construction worker who suffered torn muscles, serious back injuries or had a head injury is unlikely to be able to do the same type of labor they did before. If their condition prevents previous work, the case can continue.
Finally, the SSA will want to know if the person’s disability keeps them from doing other kinds of work. This is assessed based on their skills, education, training and the kind of work available. If the person can do other kinds of work, they will be denied disability benefits.
Preparing for a disability case is crucial
Everyone who applies for Social Security Disability benefits must go through the five-step process. Many are initially denied for one reason or another. That, however, does not mean the case is over. There are ways to appeal a denied claim.
It is wise to be fully prepared for the case from the outset. That means accumulating all the necessary information, having medical reports and showing that the benefits are needed. This can seem overwhelming, but with the right type of assistance, it makes it easier and helps to give people a good chance at getting approved.