Baltimore Social Security Disability Lawyers

How SSDI and SSI Claims Are Decided

If you have a severe and permanent medical condition that prevents you from working, you may be entitled to government assistance in the form of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These programs are run by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and are designed to assist people with disabilities. The SSA defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a physical or mental condition that is expected to last 12 months or more. This is a strict definition that is unique for Social Security purposes and you must be totally disabled to qualify for benefits.

All applications for Social Security Disability go through the Maryland Disability Determination Services (DDS) for review. There, your case will subjected to a five step analysis to determine if you are medically eligible for disability benefits. The steps are followed in a specific order and are intended to establish whether or not you meet the SSA’s strict definition of disability.

Step 1 – Substantial Gainful Activity

Substantial gainful activity (SGA) refers to both the amount of work you do and how much you get paid to do it. To qualify for disability benefits, the SSA must conclude that you are unable to perform work activities beyond a set SGA level. The SGA limit is subject to change annually and may be lower for blind individuals. Even if your income falls below this limit, you could still be denied benefits at this stage. This could also be the case if your work or volunteer activities suggest you are capable of working at the SGA level.

Step 2 – Severity of Condition

The second step involves a determination of the severity and duration of your impairment. To meet this requirement, you will need to establish that your medical condition is severe enough to limit your ability to perform work activities. You will also have to show that the condition has lasted or is expected to last more than one year. While it is helpful to have a doctor state that you are disabled, his or her opinion alone is not enough to satisfy SSA requirements. Rather, you must provide medical evidence to support your doctor’s opinion.

Step 3 – Disability Criteria

The SSA has comprised a full listing of health conditions and impairments and a minimum level at which each condition is severe enough to prevent an individual from performing substantial gainful activity. The listing includes both physical and mental health conditions. The SSA will consider not only the presence of an impairment, but also the impact of any related symptoms. If your condition meets or exceeds the minimum required severity, your claim for benefits will be approved. If your condition does not match or equal any impairments in the listing, the examiner will move on to step four.

Step 4 – Relevant work

At this stage, the DDS adjudicator will review your past work experience to determine if your condition interferes with your ability to perform your prior job. This involves an assessment of your residual functional capacity (RFC) as defined by your ability to perform the physical and mental tasks of your job. RFC does not take into account factors such as sex, age, natural body build or physical conditioning.

Step 5 – Other work

If it is determined that your condition prevents your from returning to your prior work, the DDS examiner will next consider if there are any other jobs you can perform. At this point, the burden of proof falls to the SSA to show that work exists in significant numbers in the national economy that you could conceivably adjust to despite your disability. Specific factors the agency will consider include the physical and mental demands of the job, as well as your age, education and work experience. The SSA needs only to prove that the job exists. It does not need to show that the job is available in your area, nor that it pays close to what you used to make.

Difference between SSDI and SSI

While both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provide monthly cash payments for those who meet the SSA’s strict definition of disability, there are many important differences regarding who is eligible for each program. At LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton our experienced Baltimore Social Security lawyers will help explain the differences to you which are briefly outlined below:

Social Security Disability Insurance – To receive SSDI, you must have worked enough in the years before filing to contribute a sufficient amount to the Social Security system. This is part of your FICA taxes that would have been deducted from your paycheck. The Social Security Administration measures your work history by converting your earnings into work credits. In general, the older you are, the more work credits you need to qualify for benefits. In addition to the requirement that you have enough work credits, they must have been earned recently. Those who have not earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI may still be eligible for disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

Supplemental Security Income – SSI benefits are generally smaller. To qualify, you must demonstrate that you have limited income and resources. There is no work history requirement for SSI. Moreover, SSI benefits are not available to people who have significant resources and may not be available to someone whose spouse is employed.  SSI benefits are only available to citizens and permanent residents (whereas undocumented workers who pay into the system can get SSDI).

Baltimore Social Security Disability Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Assist With Social Security Disability Claims

If you have recently become disabled and need help filing for disability benefits or if your claim has already been denied, contact LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton today. We combine extraordinary knowledge of Maryland disability law with a firm commitment to obtaining the best result for our clients. To schedule your free consultation with one of our seasoned Baltimore disability lawyers, call 800-547-4LAW (4529) today or contact us online.