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Philadelphia Social Security Disability Law Blog

What if your disability symptoms don't match the SSA's criteria?

Our Philadelphia law firm focuses on disability benefits. Over the years, we have found that clients often have questions about whether a particular mental or physical health issue might qualify for Social Security disability insurance benefits.

The Social Security Administration maintains a blue book, or listing of impairments and associated symptoms. What’s important to keep in mind, however, is that an SSA disability examiner’s bottom line is whether an individual’s composite symptoms prevent him or her for working, for an estimated period of at least year. In other words, an individual might qualify for SSDI benefits even is his or her symptoms don’t exactly meet the listed criteria in the SSA’s blue book.

Time Increase for Claimants Seeking Disability Benefits

According to a recent article, the average wait time for claimants seeking disability benefits from the Social Security Administration has grown to almost two years. For nearly everyone, that waiting game creates a severe hardship.

Do you need disability benefits? An attorney can help

There are two disability tracks offered by Social Security Administration: Supplemental Security Income and Social Security disability insurance. Both require a claimant to prove that he or she is disabled. However, SSI benefits are need-based, whereas SSDI benefits are based on an individual’s work history.

Under the SSA’s blue book definitions, a severe impairment is a physical or mental impairment expected to last at least 12 months, or cause death, and which prevents an individual from working. The SSA, through its disability examiners, will review a claimant’s medical records and supporting documentation to determine if he or she is eligible. Additional evidence, such as vocational assessments or outside medical examinations, may be have a persuasive impact upon the examiner’s decision.

When a worker becomes disabled, SSDI benefits provide support

A recent exchange between Washington journalists and the Trump administration warrants a fact check.

Specifically, journalists inquired whether Medicare and Social Security would be the target of budget cuts. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney seemed to waffle, particularly regarding Social Security disability insurance benefits. However, Mulvaney offered that disability claims had increased under President Obama's administration, perhaps inviting a negative inference regarding program abuses.

Will budget concerns affect your disability benefits application?

Various media stories have questioned whether too many individuals are qualifying for Social Security disability insurance benefits. Critics of the program have alleged fraudulent claims with little or no evidence to support those claims.

The Trump Administration has stated that it will reform abuses in entitlement programs, including Medicare and those administered by the Social Security Administration. The director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, recently offered assurance, stating that President Trump's reforms would not affect the payments designated for current beneficiaries. Yet in that same press conference, Mulvaney mischaracterized the SSDI program as one of the most abused programs in the country.

Alzheimer's may qualify for expedited SSDI application processing

Although public awareness of Alzheimer's disease has improved, it is important to understand all of the potential resources available to the over 5 million Americans who have this progressive, terminal disease.

One important resource is the Social Security disability insurance program. SSDI benefits are available to workers with a qualifying work history and a disability that prevents them from working for a period of at least one year. Since early onset Alzheimer's also affects 30- and 40-year-olds, the progressive nature of this condition may result in disability well before retirement age.

How can an SSDI applicant minimize the administrative hassle?

Most Americans are aware of the Social Security Administration's services because they pay withholding taxes, typically deducted from their wages. In addition to retirement benefits, the SSA's services include disability benefits administered through two different programs: Social Security disability insurance and Supplemental Security Income.

The eligibility requirements for SSDI and SSI vary, based in large part on whether an individual has a qualifying work history (in the case of SSDI or disability insurance benefits) or is need-based (in the case of Supplemental Security Income, or SSI). Yet one characteristic is common to both programs: Difficulties in navigating the application process.

When might anxiety disorder qualify for disability benefits?

Modern medicine hasn't completely decoded the mysteries of the human nervous system. Although serotonin, norepinephrine and other neurotransmitters may play a role, the cause for nervous system conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and panic disorders remains unknown. It is also unclear whether other factors may also be involved, such as genetics, biological processes, and life experiences. 

Yet the shortcomings of modern medicine should never justify underestimating the serious impact that anxiety disorder or other mental impairments may have on an individual's life, and in particular, his or her ability to work. Symptoms might include severe distraction, panic attacks, headaches, breathing difficulties, or other physical manifestations. Often, there is also an emotional component, such as fearful and irrational thoughts. The combined impact of these symptoms may truly present a long-term obstacle to an individual's ability to work.

Serious forms of anxiety disorder may constitute a disability

A disability does not always have to be physical in order to qualify for Social Security disability insurance benefits. The Social Security Administration's blue book lists many mental health conditions that are recognized as disabilities. The true test of SSDI eligibility is the degree to which a disability impairs an individual's ability to work.  It is not merely the diagnosis.

Unfortunately, many Americans wrongly assume that mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorder or depression, are not as serious as physical disabilities. Individuals who have experienced less serious forms of anxiety might not understand that there are more serious and debilitating forms of the condition. Others might simply have a hard time acknowledging or understanding the severity of conditions with fewer, if any, visible symptoms.

An attorney can guide you in the disability application process

The Social Security Administration has made it simple to apply for disability benefits online. However, don't make the mistake of going through the process alone. Almost two-thirds of initial applications for Social Security disability insurance or Supplemental Security Income are denied. Wait times at all stages of the SSA's administrative process are lengthy and getting longer, as we've discussed in several recent blog posts. An experienced disability attorney can help you avoid these and other pitfalls in the application process.

There are many services that the attorneys at the Disability Benefits Law Center provide for our clients. We start the process with a free initial consultation, where we evaluate a client's claim, answer questions about the SSDI and SSI eligibility requirements, and provide an overview of what to expect.  For those who still need to apply, we will review their online application without cost or obligation.

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