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Proving a social security disability claim

Many people in the San Diego area have illnesses or injuries that prevent them from working, and most persons in this group are aware that they may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The process for obtaining an award of social security disability benefits can seem long, confusing and in many cases frustrating. In this post, we will provide a summary of the methods that can be used to prove a claim for disability benefits. The first step is the submission of the SSDI application form. The form asks the applicant to submit information that the Social Security Administration can use to decide whether the applicant meets the statutory requirements of being totally disabled by an illness or injury that has or is expected to last at least 12 months.

Under SSA requirements, the applicant must prove that he or she has earned sufficient work credits and that he or she suffers from an injury or illness that makes it impossible to engage in "substantial gainful activity." Under current regulations, an applicant who earns more than $1,130 per month cannot be considered to be disabled. That standard is explicit, but the underlying issue - did the injury or illness cause the inability to work - is not always so clear.

The SSA maintains an extensive list of various "disabling conditions." If an illness or injury is included in this list, the applicant is automatically qualified for benefits, and the application is usually approved in a matter of weeks. However, many people suffer from injuries or illnesses that are not on the list or are on the list but without the required level of intensity. The applicant can nevertheless obtain benefits by proving that his or her condition is equal in severity and disabling effect to one or more medical conditions on the list, even if it is not described as such. Making this proof usually requires testimony or written testimony from a physician or other qualified medical professional enumerates the symptoms, provides a diagnosis and rates the extent of disability.

While the SSA provides a number of on-line aids to persons seeking disability benefits, a person contemplating an application for benefits may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in handling such claims. A knowledgeable attorney can assist an applicant in assembling the required information, including the necessary opinions from physicians and others, that can convince the SSA to approve the application.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Disability Planner," accessed on Sept. 10, 2015

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