One of the most frequent questions we get is about what types of conditions are considered disabilities under the Social Security disability (SSD) and SSI benefit programs. At The Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, PLLC, our attorneys are fully familiar with the legal definition of a disability.
There are some general rules for determining whether you have a disability, but every case is different. Don't hesitate to contact us for a free consultation with an experienced lawyer. We serve clients in Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, and throughout western, central and upstate New York.
The Sequential Evaluation Process
Many people have misconceptions about what it means to have a disability as far as the Social Security Administration is concerned. Social Security employs a five step process to determine if you are "disabled" under their rules:
1. Are you engaged in substantial gainful activity? If you are working full time or earning more than $1000.00 per month, you are not entitled to Social Security disability or SSI benefits, no matter how severe your condition is.
2. Do you have a medically severe impairment? This step requires that your disability be caused by a medically determinable impairment, and not by other causes, such as a poor job market, discrimination, lack of transportation, or other non-medical reasons.
3. Does your condition meet or equal a listed impairment? Social Security has a list of medical conditions that can be disabling. If you have a condition on the list, and your condition meets the criteria of the listing, or if you have a condition equal in severity to a listed impairment, you are automatically eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
4. Are you able to perform your past relevant work? If your condition does not meet or equal the criteria of a listed impairment, you can still qualify for Social Security disability benefits. At step four, you must prove you are unable to perform any work that you have performed during the past 15 years. If you can perform your past relevant work, you are not eligible for benefits. However, even if you prove you cannot perform your past work, you are not necessarily eligible for benefits. You must also qualify under step five.
5. Are there any other jobs existing in significant numbers that you can perform? This is the most complicated step, and the step where most cases get decided. Under Social Security's rules, you bear the burden of proving that no other jobs in significant numbers exist that you can perform. If you prove this, you are eligible for benefits. If not, you will be found not disabled.