While You Wait: Understanding The Social Security Approval Steps

Law Blog

If you are no longer able to work at your job, you may be able to get Social Security benefits. The approval process can be complicated and the wait times long, but that is because the approval must go through several steps. Submitting your application for benefits is just the beginning, so read on for an overview of the Social Security approval steps.

1. Determining Work Credits

You must have worked enough and made enough money to get benefits, so verifying your work credits is the first step. Work credits are meant to stand in for certain amounts of income. In most cases, this income must be earned within the last few years unless you are under age 30. If you do not have enough work credits to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you might be able to qualify for Supplement Security Income (SSI).

2. Determining Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

If you are still working when you apply for benefits and earning a certain amount of money, you won't be approved. That is because the Social Security Administration (SSA) terms all income-producing work over a certain level as SGA and reasons that people who are able to work don't need benefits. There is more, however. You must also demonstrate via your application that you have been unable to work at your job for at least a full year (or that you expect to be unable to do so). Upon passing these first two steps, your application proceeds to disability determination services.

3. Determining Your Medical Qualifications

This is the last step in the process and the most difficult for some applicants. This step consists of answering these questions:

  1. Is your medical condition mentioned in the list of qualifying illnesses maintained by the SSA? If your illness is listed, then your medical records or a doctor's examination is used to show proof of the illness.
  2. Does your illness make it impossible to perform the duties of your job? Here, the SSA takes a look at the skills, tasks, and abilities required to do your job and compares them to the limitations imposed by your medical condition. The SSA refers to this as residual functioning capacity (RFC).
  3. Given your medical condition, are there any other jobs that you can perform? Unfortunately, if there is any one area of the evaluation that trips most applicants up, it is this. You have little say in the determination of how your medical condition prohibits you from doing other jobs. Those jobs may not even be available in your area.

If you get turned down, speak to a Social Security attorney. You are entitled to an appeal hearing, and your attorney will be able to argue against the unfair ruling that's keeping you from the benefits you need and deserve. To learn more, contact companies like the Law Center For Social Security Rights.


24 October 2018