Social Security’s Definition of Disability
The SSA defines disability as being unable “to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected to result in death or that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.”
The SSA has a separate definition of disability for children, considering a child disabled if he or she is under the age of 18 and “has a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that causes marked and severe functional limitations, and that can be expected to cause death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”
The SSA uses the term “substantial gainful activity” to describe a qualifying level of work activity and earnings. The SSA considers work to be “substantial” if “it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both.” Work does not need to be performed on a full-time basis, as part-time work can also qualify as SGA. Work is considered “gainful” if it is one of the following:
- Work performed for pay or profit
- Work of a nature generally performed for pay or profit
- Work intended for profit, regardless of whether profits are earned
The SSA uses baseline monthly earnings to create a presumption of SGA. As of 2018, for a disability other than blindness, average monthly earnings of at least $1,180 could generally demonstrate SGA. For blindness, average monthly earnings of at least $1,970 could meet this threshold.
The SSA further defines a “medically-determinable impairment” as an impairment that results from “anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities that can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.”
The SSA expressly notes that medical evidence must show a physical or mental impairment. Statements about an individual’s symptoms are insufficient to establish an impairment.
How to Apply for SSD Benefits
You can apply for SSD benefits by one of two methods. You may either file an online application at the SSA website, or you can call the SSA’s toll-free number to make an appointment at your local SSA office to fill out an application or to have a staff member call you back to take your application information over the phone.
If you choose to fill out an application at an SSA office or over the phone, the process takes approximately one hour.
Before filing for SSD benefits, you should talk with our Winter Haven disability benefits attorneys to find out how we can help you put together a strong application.
How Long Does It Take to Receive SSD Benefits?
Assuming your application is approved at the initial stage of consideration, it can take anywhere between 30 and 90 days to receive a decision on your application and start receiving SSD benefits. The exact length of time can vary depending on how long it takes the SSA office to receive your medical records, income information, and other evidence it needs to consider your application.
If your application is denied at the first stage, it can take much longer to obtain an approval of your application. Assuming you must take your claim to the end of the administrative process, it can take as long as three to five months, or even longer depending on the backlog of claims being appealed from an initial denial.
What to Do If Your SSD Application Was Denied
If your SSD application is denied, do not worry. Most applications are denied at the first stage of consideration, and many are later proven to be valid.
If your application is denied at the initial stage, your next step is to file a request for reconsideration of your application. During reconsideration, the office where you submitted your application will review your application again, along with any new information you wish to submit to the reviewer. As a result, very few applications are approved at the reconsideration stage.
If your application is denied both at the initial and reconsideration stages, your next step is to file a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The hearing is not like a trial. It is instead far more informal, where a medical expert and a vocational expert will testify as to whether you have a disability under the SSA regulations and whether you may still be qualified to perform other kinds of work. You may present your own witnesses, along with any new evidence or information that you believe has changed your situation since your initial application.
If the ALJ denies your application, you can appeal to the Appeals Council, which is a panel of other ALJs not previously involved in your hearing. The Appeals Council’s review is limited to determining whether the first ALJ’s decision has support in the record and properly applied the law. If they decide the decision was erroneous, they can either correct the error or send your case back to the ALJ to correct any errors.
If your application is still denied at this point, your last course of action is to file a civil suit in federal court.
Let Our Winter Haven Social Security Disability Lawyers Help
If you are attempting to apply for SSD benefits or appeal a denied application, you don’t have to navigate the process on your own. Many applications for benefits are approved on reconsideration or appeal when the applicant obtains the help of a lawyer who can draft a more organized and persuasive benefits application.
Having an attorney help you through the application process could give you a better chance at receiving approval and being paid benefits. Don’t go one extra day without critical SSD benefits. Contact Brooks Law Group Winter Haven SSD lawyer today to schedule a consultation and discuss your claim in further detail.
Directions to Our Winter Haven SSD Law Firm
Our Winter Haven, FL law office serves many of our Social Security Disability clients. Our office is conveniently located at 1401 Havendale Boulevard NW, Winter Haven, FL 33881.
- Coming from the north: Traveling south on U.S. 27, get onto U.S. 17 south at the interchange. Stay on U.S. 17, then turn right onto Havendale Boulevard NW. Our office is located on the right.
- Coming from the south: Traveling north on U.S. 98, get onto U.S. 17 north at the interchange. Follow U.S. 17, then take a left onto Havendale Boulevard NW. Our office is located on the right.
- Coming from the east: Traveling west on Interstate 4, take Exit 55 for U.S. 27 south. Follow U.S. 27, then go south on U.S. 17 at the interchange. Stay on U.S. 17, then turn right onto Havendale Boulevard NW. Our office is located on the right
- Coming from the west: Traveling east on Interstate 4, take Exit 41 for Polk Parkway (toll road). Take Exit 17 for U.S. 92 east, then turn right onto Havendale Boulevard. Our office is located on the left.
Feel free to contact our personal injury attorneys at Winter Haven, FL office for specific directions from your location.