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Applying & Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits (SSD SSDI)

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSD SSDI) Attorney
Tampa Bay Florida, St. Petersburg, Clearwater - Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco Counties


 
 Applying for Social Security Benefits

Your initial application for Social Security Disability benefits can be done by any of three methods. You can apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov; you can visit any Social Security office; or you can call the Social Security toll-free number 1-800-772-1213. No matter how you apply, you should first gather all the important information that you will need. You may need at least your Social Security card or something showing your Social Security number; your birth certificate; a Social Security card and birth certificate of your minor dependent children; a written summary of where you have worked and what kind of work you have done in the past 15 years; and names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all the medical facilities (hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices etc.) where you have been treated over the last 10 years or so, and especially where you have treated since being disabled.
 

 Qualifying for Social Security Benefits

To receive Social Security disability benefits, you must be fully insured for Social Security coverage and must be totally disabled, that is unable to perform any jobs that exist in substantial numbers in the national economy. You may have a certain small amount of earnings from work and still qualify.

You must be fully insured for Social Security benefits in order to be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSD). In most cases, that means that you have worked enough to earn 20 calendar quarters of coverage out of the 40 calendar quarters prior to your becoming disabled. If you have worked fairly steadily 5 out of the 10 years prior to becoming disabled, you will usually meet this test. If you are under 30 years old, you can have fewer quarters of coverage depending on your age and still meet the fully insured requirement.

Once you have met the eligibility test as fully insured for SSD, you must meet the disability requirement. Social Security Disability is a program awarding benefits to those who are totally disabled; there is no award for partial disability. You will not qualify if you can do jobs that exists in significant numbers in the national economy even if you cannot do your previous type of work. To qualify you need to show that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful work activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment and that you either have been or will be disabled for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

   Qualifying Process for Social Security Disability Insurance
The Social Security Administration determination of disability is a five-step sequential process. If the proof fails at any step other than step three (3), you are found not disabled and not entitled to benefits. That is, you must meet each of the five steps in order except for the Listing step, step 3, in order to meet the definition of disabled. Also, remember that you must also prove that your disability has lasted or will last at least 12 months. The following is the five-step process in the order in which it is used.

1. Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA step)

At this step you must show that you are not working at earnings that amount to substantial gainful activity. The amount you may earn from work performed that does not amount to substantial gainful activity changes by year and is higher if you are blind. For non-blind disability claimants, the SGA threshold (the amount you can earn from work and still be considered for SSD benefits) is $980 per month in 2009; $940 per month in 2008; $900 per month in 2007; $860 per month in 2006; $830 per month in 2005; $810 per month in 2004, etc. income that is not earned from work is not counted. For instance, if you receive a pension check or dividend checks from stocks or investments, those do not count as earnings for SGA. If you meet the SGA test in step 1, you proceed onto step 2.

2. Severity of Impairments (Severity step)

 At step two of the sequential evaluation process, you must prove that your physical and/or mental impairments are "severe". You must have medical proof of your impairments. Generally any impairment is severe if it impairs your ability to do any sort of basic work activities. If you meet the Severity test in step 2, you proceed onto step 3.

3. Listings of Impairments (Listings step)

In order to be found disabled at step three, your medical records must show that you either meet or medically equal one of a special set of impairments published by Social Security in Appendix 1 of the federal Social Security Disability regulations. If you meet or equal one of these specifically listed impairments, you are disabled for Social Security purposes. If you do not meet one of these specifically listed impairments, you proceed onto step 4.

4. Past Relevant Work (PRW step)

At this step you must prove that as a result of your physical and/or mental impairments, you are incapable of doing any work that you have performed in the last 15 years or in the 15 years before your disability insured status was last met if that date is earlier. If you proved by medical evidence that you are unable to perform any of the jobs that you have performed in the past 15 years, you proceed onto step 5.

5. Other Work (Other Work step)

By this step, you have met the qualifications of all of the prior steps except for the Listings step, step 3. (Had you met the Listings step, you would have been found to be disabled at step 3). The last step involves your proving that as a result of your physical and/or mental impairments, you cannot do other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy, considering your remaining work capacity, age, education and work experience. The federal Social Security regulations provide an important tool for determining whether a worker is disabled at step 5 because of medical impairments and vocational factors. This part of the regulations is referred to as the Medical-Vocational Guidelines. Since it is arranged as a grid, these guidelines are commonly known within Social Security circles as "the grids". If your age, education, past relevant work, remaining work capacity and other factors fit into one of the grids, the grid rules dictate whether or not you are found to be disabled. If for some reason your factors cannot fit into any of the grids, these grids are used as a framework for determining disability and you may have to offer other proof, such as vocational expert testimony, and legal arguments to prove disability.
 

 Social Security Disability Insurance Info
 


For more information about your Social Security Disability claim, contact Florida Social Security Disability lawyer Dennis Palso for a free consultation.

Florida Social Security Disability Insurance attorney Dennis A. Palso represents claimants for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits in administrative hearings and before the Federal Appeals Council in the Tampa Bay area, including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, New Port Richey, Largo, Pinellas Park, Seminole, Palm Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, Dunedin, Gulfport, Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, and Pasco County FL.



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