Carter Craig, Attorneys at Law

Determining eligibility for Social Security disability benefits

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According to the Social Security Administration, one in four workers in their 20s will become disabled before reaching the average retirement age of 67. Many people in Virginia don't have a safety net to fall back on if an injury or accident happens to them rendering them unable to work. Luckily, Social Security disability can be an option.

Social Security disability is a government program that provides benefits to workers who have suffered an injury, accident or illness such as a stroke or heart attack and cannot work. Typically this benefit is paid to workers whose medical condition will force them out of work for at least a year. The Social Security department reviews each case determining if the application is disabled.

The Agency goes through a 5-step process to determine if an application is disabled. The first step is to determine if the applicant is still working and if they are they must be making below a certain dollar amount each month. If they pass this step, step 2 involves reviewing the medical condition to determine if it is "severe". A severe medical condition significantly limits the ability to do certain work abilities such as walking, sitting or remembering.

For step 3 the agency will check to see if the condition is on the "List of Impairments." The List of Impairments includes conditions that are so severe that they automatically qualify a person for disability. If the person's condition is not on the list the Agency will compare the applicant's condition with the conditions on the list to see if it is as debilitating.

The fourth step is determining if the applicant can do the work they did before. If the applicant can no longer do the job the agency will move to step 5. Step 5 is the final step where the agency looks to see if the applicant can do another type of work. If a person cannot do another type of work they are determined to disabled.

The monthly benefit is based on the average amount of money a worker would earn in their lifetime. Family members may also be able to receive Social Security disability payments. A spouse is eligible if they are 62 years old or older, or if they are taking care of a child that is under 16 years old. Unmarried children less than 18 years old or unmarried children 18 years or older if they have a disability that began prior to them turning age 22 are also eligible for payments.

Source: ssa.gov, "Social Security Disability Benefits", accessed on Sept. 21, 2014

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