How does a medical condition qualify for disability benefits?

Social Security benefits may be something that people think of when considering retirement or are approaching retirement. Retirement, however, is not the only time Social Security may be useful. Given that Social Security disability benefits were paid to 8.8 million beneficiaries in 2013, some may question what Social Security disability benefits are and in what circumstances they are provided.

Disability benefits, in general, are available for medical conditions expected to last longer than twelve months. The qualifying medical condition may be based on an illness or injury that caused the disability. To determine if a medical condition qualifies and applicant for disability benefits, the state agency responsible for a portion of the processing of a Social Security disability claim for benefits will contact the applicant’s doctors and ask the doctors a series of questions.

Questions that may be asked by medical personnel can include what the condition is and when it began, how the condition limits the activities of the applicant, what tests have revealed, and what treatments the applicant has received. In addition, doctors will be questioned about the applicant’s ability to perform work-related tasks, including sitting, walking, lifting, carrying and remembering instructions. At times, an additional medical exam may be requested but information provided by the applicant’s doctors will be relied upon.

The applicant’s doctors do not determine if the applicant is disabled; rather, the agency asks if the applicant is working; if the medical condition is severe in that it severely limits the applicant’s activities; if the medical condition is listed on the List of Impairments; and if the applicant can perform the type of work the applicant previously performed or another type of work? There are also work history requirements to qualify for Social Security disability, however, different programs may be available to disabled applicants who do not meet the necessary work history.

Qualifying for Social Security disability benefits is often a complex and lengthy process and can be impacted by a number of factors. It is best to fully understand all of the important considerations beforehand what will be made when a determination of disability benefits is arrived at.

Source: Social Security Administration, “Disability Benefits,” Accessed August 25, 2014

Source: Social Security Administration, “Disability Benefits,” Accessed August 25, 2014