Alabama Social Security Disability Benefits Lawyer
According to the Social Security Administration, in 2019 there were more than two million applicants for disability. Unfortunately, the rate of approval for initial applications for Social Security Disability is about 30 percent. Yet Social Security Disability benefits can be invaluable for helping those who are disabled and unable to work support themselves and their families. Social Security has two sets of criteria for determining whether an applicant is disabled—one relates to medical conditions, and the other encompasses non-medical conditions. Regarding medical conditions that qualify for SSD benefits, it is important to familiarize yourself with the Blue Book which outlines all impairments and conditions that will qualify an applicant.
Where Can I Find the Social Security Disability Blue Book?
You can find the Social Security Disability Blue Book online under the SSA Medical Listings (A) and Childhood Listings (B). While the two sections are similar, you will find additional conditions listed in the Childhood section. Each condition is listed under a specific, numbered category. As an example, you will find conditions that involve the Musculoskeletal System listed under 1.00. Within each category, listed conditions receive a specific, corresponding number. Under the subcategory, you will find a description of each condition, as well as the requirements for SSD eligibility.
You will find a wide variety of disabling conditions in the Blue Book, including the severity at which these conditions automatically qualify you for benefits. Some categories of conditions listed in the SSD Blue Book include:
- Immune System Disorders
- Issues Related to Speech and Senses
- Skin Disorders
- Mental Disorders
- Genitourinary Issues
- Kidney Disease
- Hemolytic and Hematological Disorders
- Digestive Tract Issues
- Other Syndromes
If the medical condition which leaves you disabled falls under a Blue Book category (and meets the severity detailed in the Blue Book) you stand a much greater chance of having your disability benefits claim approved. If your specific condition is not listed in the Blue Book—or does not meet the exact definition in the book—you may still be able to qualify for disability benefits. If your disabling condition medically equals the criteria in another Blue Book Listing, you may still be eligible for benefits. The Social Security Administration allows this under the following situations:
- Your specific impairment is listed, but your impairment does not meet the specific criteria. In this case, you can “equal” the listing if you can show you have other medical issues that are equal in medical value to the listed requirements.
- Your specific impairment is not listed but is very similar to one that is listed. In this situation, you can “equal” the listing if you can show your impairment is medically equivalent to the one found in the similar listing.
- Your impairment is a combination of impairments that, on their own, do not necessarily meet an individual listing. You can “equal” the listing if the combined effects of your conditions are equal to similar listings.
Even if your condition does not seem to meet or equal criteria in the Blue Book, you may still be eligible for SSD benefits if your condition limits your ability to function to the point that you are unable to work. In short, to receive SSD benefits you must be able to prove that your condition prevents you from engaging in substantial, gainful activity—you are unable to work enough to make a living. As you might imagine, the Blue Book is both complex and technical, as it was written for interpretation by medical professionals and SSD experts. Because of this, trying to prove your condition meets Social Security Disability requirements can be an uphill battle without an experienced disability attorney by your side.
What are the Medical Requirements for SSD Benefits?
To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits your condition must be severe enough to restrict you from working—your condition must “interfere with basic work-related activities.” Disabled individuals are usually unable to work, and unable to complete normal tasks they could have completed prior to their disability. If your disabling condition does not fall under one of the Blue Book listing impairments as described above, you will be required to work through additional steps.
You must show your disabling condition is severe enough to limit your ability to do the type of work you did prior to your condition. If your condition is severe enough to limit your ability to engage in the work you did prior to becoming disabled, you will also have to document your inability to do other types of work. With the determination of your disability, the SSA will look at your specific medical condition, your age, your education, the specific type of work you did prior to your disability, and whether you have transferable skills that would translate into a new type of work.
What is a Medical-Vocational Allowance?
In certain instances, even when your medical condition fails to qualify you to receive disability benefits under Blue Book guidelines, you might still qualify for benefits under a medical-vocational allowance. This medical-vocational allowance takes into consideration whether you are physically and mentally able to perform your job duties, given your condition. The Social Security Administration considers age, education, work history, and experience along with your residual function capacity when determining whether you might qualify for disability benefits under the medical-vocational allowance.
In other words, the mental job requirements of your job might be to read, remember, follow directions, and communicate, while the physical job requirements might include the ability to sit, walk, stand, lift and carry, or reach and bend over. The RFC takes into consideration the limitations of your condition by measuring the maximum amount of work you are capable of performing. If it is determined that you are unable to adapt to any type of work, you might be eligible for disability benefits under the medical-vocational allowance.
What are the Compassionate Allowances Listings?
Under the Blue Book listings, Cancer is found in Section 13.00. Under that listing, individual disability listings are broken down according to where the cancer originates. Each type of cancer has its own set of requirements and criteria you must meet to qualify. As an example, suppose you have been diagnosed with breast cancer. In order to qualify for disability benefits, under Blue Book requirements your breast cancer must have spread to other parts of your body, or “distant breast regions.” Some types of cancer—as well as other severe medical conditions—will fall under the Compassionate Allowances listing, which covers conditions that are usually considered terminal. Under the Compassionate Allowances, if you have such a condition your application will be reviewed quickly so your claim can be approved.
Many aggressive cancers will qualify if one of the following is true:
- The cancer is inoperable
- The cancer recurred despite treatment
- The cancer has spread past its region of origin
In addition to some aggressive cancers, a few of the other conditions that qualify for Compassionate Allowances include:
- Muscular dystrophy and muscular atrophy (some types)
- Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease
- Organ transplant
- Malignant melanoma that has metastasized
- Aortic Atresia
- Edwards Syndrome
- Heart transplant graft failure
- Juvenile onset Huntington’s Disease
- Mixed dementias
What are the Non-Medical Requirements for SSD Benefits?
Non-medical requirements for SSD benefits include income requirements, marital status, age, and work credits. Non-medical criteria must be provided by you and your employer and verified by the Social Security Administration. Non-medical disability criteria are not tied to mental health or medical health conditions. Your age is important in the determination of Social Security Disability benefits as it determines how long you worked prior to becoming disabled. A birth certificate is generally accepted as proof of age.
Next, the Social Security Administration will want to look at your work records, including where you have been employed, how long you were employed, and how much you have paid in FICA premiums over the years. Both your eligibility for disability benefits and the amount of benefits you could be eligible to receive are based on how much you worked in the ten years prior to the time you became disabled and how much you made while working.
The SSA will carefully verify your employment history, including the types of work you have done in the past. This will help to determine whether you are capable of engaging in the type of work you have done in the past or not. The Social Security Administration will use your employment records to determine whether you have sufficient work credits through paying Federal Insurance Contributions Act premiums while working. Most workers must have worked a minimum of five out of the last ten years to qualify, although the exact requirements will also depend on your age.
The Social Security Administration will verify your marital status; while your marital status, on its own, has no bearing on whether you will be determined to be disabled, your spouse’s income is a disability criterion when determining the Social Security Disability benefits you may be entitled to receive. The income threshold will be used to determine whether you are currently making too much money to qualify for SSD benefits. As of 2020, if you earn more than $1,260 per month you cannot qualify for disability. If you earn less than this, and you qualify under other non-medical and medical criteria, you may be able to receive Social Security Disability benefits.
How Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability Eligibility Requirements?
If you can clearly show that your medical condition qualifies you for SSD benefits, it will be much easier for you to obtain those benefits, however, the non-medical requirements are also very important. If your initial claim is denied you will be given a reason for the denial, which will be that your medical condition does not fit the criteria, that you have insufficient work credits, you make too much money, or you have failed to provide the SSA with requested documents.
What are the Requirements to Keep Social Security Disability?
The most common reason your SSD benefits might stop is that you have returned to work, although there are instances where you can continue receiving SSD benefits while engaging in a “trial work period.” This work period allows you to attempt to return to work without losing your SSD eligibility. In most instances, you can work for up to nine months during a trial work period while maintaining your SSD benefits—no matter how much you are making. At the end of the trial work period, if you are still working and making more than $1,260, you will no longer be considered disabled and your SSD benefits will cease.
If you are receiving SSD benefits and you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits will stop when your Social Security benefits begin. If you are incarcerated after being convicted of a crime, your disability benefits will cease for the time you are incarcerated, and, unless you participate in a rehabilitation program, your benefits will be suspended after 30 days of incarceration, to be reinstated the month following your release. In some cases, a felony conviction will cause your SSD benefits to cease, even if you are not incarcerated.
How Can a Social Security Disability Attorney Help Me?
Obtaining SSD benefits can be complex and is almost always facilitated by having an experienced Social Security disability attorney by your side. To learn more about the requirements necessary to be approved for Social Security Disability benefits, speaking to an attorney at Carmichael Law Group can be extremely helpful. We will not only help you assess your eligibility for SSD benefits, we will walk you through the application process. If your initial application was denied, don’t give up! We are well-versed in all the ins and outs of obtaining SSD benefits and can help you with an appeal at any level. Contact Carmichael Law Group today for answers to your questions and the help you need.