SSDI benefits: Disability determinations

People unable to work and earn a living due to a disabling condition may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits through the Social Security Administration. However, the decision of whether a person can work or not does not fall to the person or to his or her doctor. Rather, the SSA has specific guidelines that conditions must meet for people to receive this assistance.

When seeking SSDI, it may help applicants to understand how Social Security determines disability.

Making disability determinations

According to the SSA, the state’s disability determination services office conducts a review of applications to make initial disability decisions. To this end, agents consider all submitted documentation, including medical records from any treating providers or facilities. Disability determination services may also reach out to applicants’ physicians to ask questions about their conditions and medical histories, as well as how their conditions may limit applicants’ activities.

Defining disability

According to Social Security, to determine if applicants qualify for SSDI benefits, disability determination services applies several questions to the review of benefit applications. For applicants not working, disability determination services agents first consider their conditions. Agents ask whether applicants’ conditions affect their ability to perform basic work tasks like walking, sitting, standing and lifting for at least 12 months. Provided applicants’ conditions create such limitations, agents next ask if they appear on the administration’s list of disabling medical conditions. Those with conditions not listed may still qualify for benefits if disability determination services finds their conditions match the severity of conditions on the list.

After considering applicants’ conditions, disability determination services questions the types of work people can do. In making benefits decisions, agents ask if applicants can still perform any of the jobs they previously had. If not, agents ask if applicants can perform any other type of work. If applicants cannot perform any other type of work due to their conditions, agents may determine people’s conditions to qualify as disabling.