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San Diego Social Security Disability Law Blog

Top examples of disabilities

If you're wondering if the condition you have qualifies as a disability, the best place to begin is by talking to your doctor. The help of medical professionals is invaluable in this process. They can tell you what the outlook is, how the condition will impact you, how long it will last and what the odds are that you'll eventually recover.

Still, it can also help to know about common disabilities that people face. If you fall into one of these categories, you very well could qualify for benefits. Examples include:

  • Spinal cord trauma that leads to paralysis. The location of the injury determines where that paralysis will affect you.
  • Physical limitations due to brain injury or neurological trauma.
  • Brain injuries that lead to cognitive limitations. These often heal slightly over the first six months and then last for life.
  • Serious trauma that leads to limb amputations. These amputations can either be partial or complete.
  • Psychological trauma that, while it may be "invisible" to an outsider, still has a massive impact on your life.
  • Blindness, deafness or other sensory disabilities.
  • An injury resulting in limb deformation. This can impair your mobility and your ability to work.

How many people get disability benefits?

The Social Security Administration has benefits programs for those who are disabled and cannot work. They can help people who are out for a significant amount of time but hope to recover and those who will never work again. This program is larger than many people realize and a lot of individuals can obtain these benefits.

If you're wondering how many people in the United States have disabilities, the following numbers will not directly answer that question. There are people who have never applied, those who are still working through the process, those who have been denied and appealed the denial and those who do not get the benefits for other reasons. That's important to note at the risk of skewing the statistics without that perspective.

Study claims thousands pass away after SSDI denials

SSDI denials happen frequently, with many of them focused around minor issues: Missing paperwork, a technical error, etc. Even so, these denials can take so long that some studies claim thousands of people pass away as they await their decisions. This happens each and every year.

As an example of just how long this process can take, look at the story of a 60-year-old woman with fibromyalgia. She suffers from chronic pain. She also has depression, high blood pressure, pinched nerves, kidney disease and diabetes.

Is your post-traumatic stress disorder a disability?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is most common in those who have experienced trauma that is far outside of the norm. For instance, you may find it in soldiers who have been wounded in combat or police officers who have lost friends in the line of duty. While it's true that people can sometimes get it from car accidents and other such incidents, that does not happen as often.

If you do have PTSD, is that a disability? It may be. It's not in every case. Some people can move forward with their lives and heal. They can go to therapy and take medication. They still have to struggle with this "invisible injury" at times, but they learn to manage it.

Lymphedema patients may be eligible to collect Social Security

California residents who suffer from lymphedema may discover that filing for Social Security Disability Income could be a challenge since the ailment is not listed in the Social Security Administration Blue Book as a specific malady. However, those who are afflicted with lymphedema and similar diseases could possibly be able to collect SSDI.

The symptoms of lymphedema may mirror those of other disorders, such as impaired blood vessels in the legs, that can make walking painful and uncomfortable. If the lymphedema affects the upper extremities, it could mirror a musculoskeletal ailment, possibly increasing an individual's chances of collecting SSDI. Because of the blur in symptoms, applicants may ultimately be able to obtain their benefit under a similar disability that is listed in the Social Security Administration Blue Book.

SSDI rule will make it harder for non-English speakers

Disabled people in California who do not speak English may have a harder time qualifying for Social Security disability insurance under a new rule that was recently announced by the current administration. The new rule removes a lack of English-speaking ability from the factors that are taken into consideration when evaluating the education of applicants.

When people apply for SSDI benefits, the Social Security Administration assesses whether their disabling conditions prevent them from engaging in substantial gainful activity through employment. Part of this assessment includes an evaluation of an applicant's educational level. Before the new rule, that evaluation included considering whether the applicant could speak in English since it is more difficult for non-English speakers to find employment.

Applying for Social Security with back and spine disorders

Degenerative disc disease and the associated pain can make completing work difficult or impossible. As a result, California residents with this condition may apply for Social Security disability benefits to provide income for themselves and their families. According to the Social Security Administration, claims for disability benefits based on degenerative disc disease are assessed according to the portion of its manual dealing with various spinal disorders. This listing encompasses a range of spinal conditions, including spinal stenosis and vertebral fractures in addition to degenerative disorders.

To be approved for Social Security benefits, applicants must meet the guidelines specified in the listing. In particular, they must show that at least one nerve root, such as the spinal cord or cauda equina, has been compromised by the disease. Nerve root compression or compromise can be demonstrated through a range of medical reports, including limited spinal motion, pain distribution or loss of motor function, including muscle atrophy and weakness. In addition, applicants must also show proof of a positive straight leg test, showing that they experience pain while lying down and while sitting.

Understanding the SSA's evaluation process for benefits

The system of providing Social Security disability benefits involves a complex maze of rules, regulations and decisions regarding prior cases. By employing a sequential process to evaluate an eligible applicant's claim, the Social Security Administration will determine if there is indeed a "disability" that warrants benefits. For many California claimants, how their particular mental or physical impairment fits within the SSA's Blue Book, or Listing of Impairments, is crucial to the ultimate disability decision. However, even if a claimant's impairment is among those included in the Blue Book, it's not certain that disability benefits will be awarded.

It's important to note that a claimant will not receive benefits merely by having a certain, specific condition. The key issue is the extent to which that condition causes what are known as functional limitations. This requires an examination of the work history of the claimant to fully understand the types of activities they performed as necessitated by the nature of the job.

The process for obtaining a medical vocational allowance

California residents and others who have physical or mental impairments that make it impossible to work may be entitled to disability benefits. Typically, benefits are granted if a person meets medical vocational allowance criteria. This means that an individual cannot go back to any job that he or she has had over the past 15 years. It also means that an individual would not be qualified to do any other work that he or she could be mentally or physically able to perform.

Applicants are encouraged to provide as much information about their work histories as possible to an examiner when submitting their applications. This may make it easier for that person determine the exact tasks that an individual performed over the past 15 years. Detailed information can also help an examiner determine exactly how a physical or mental impairment makes it impossible to do those jobs again in the future.

Medical records may not be enough for SSD benefits

For people in California who cannot work due to a disability, Social Security Disability benefits can be crucial to making ends meet and surviving. However, in order to obtain SSD benefits successfully, many people must go through a lengthy, complex process, especially following an initial denial. In order to make a successful claim for disability benefits, people must often submit a substantial amount of documentary evidence that backs up their claims about their limitations. Medical records are a key area of required documents for applicants because they indicate a professional diagnosis as well as the onset of the disability.

However, in most cases, medical records alone do not illustrate the types of limitations often considered by the Social Security Administration when determining disability benefits. They refer to conditions, treatments and symptoms, but they are less likely to discuss functional limitations such as difficulty standing or walking for a specific period of time. In most cases, however, the SSA relies far more on those types of documented limitations than on the diagnoses recorded. This information can help disability examiners determine whether a person can return to previous work or perform a different job.