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What is a severe disability that prevents one's ability to work?

We’ve mentioned in previous posts that more is often required for Social Security disability insurance than just a diagnosis matching the list of disabling conditions maintained by the Social Security Administration. Specifically, applicants must provide evidence that the severity of their condition interferes with their ability to perform basic work activities and prevents them from carrying out their previous work.

If that standard sounds alarmingly subjective, you probably have reason to be concerned. The Code of Federal Regulations provides a definition for basic work activities, which includes both physical functions and mental functions. Yet establishing interference with basic work activities is not the end of the SSA examiner’s inquiry. 

 

With the exception of the disabilities that qualify for expedited processing under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance program, most applicants will need to produce evidence that they can no longer do they work they once did. That evidence includes not only medical treatment records, but also documentation about the job titles and work that applicants previously performed, perhaps as far back as the past 15 years.

Assuming that such evidence satisfies the examiner, the final inquiry may involve whether the SSDI applicant is able to perform comparable work in the current economy. If that answer is no and the applicant meets the other SSDI requirements, such as a qualifying work history, he or she stands a good chance at being approved for SSDI benefits.

Yet a disability attorney knows that the average SSDI payment, around $1,150, will hardly make any beneficiary comfortable enough to avoid all financial worries. In addition, many disabled workers desire to return to work. Fortunately, the SSDI program allows for transitions, in the event a beneficiary’s condition might improve to the point of allowing him or her to explore other sources of income.

Source:  Heritage Foundation, “What Is Social Security Disability Insurance? An SSDI Primer,” Romina Boccia, Feb. 19, 2015

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