You have been working at the same job for more 10 years and you just cannot do it anymore. Maybe you have trouble with shortness of breath or your knees hurt all of the time. You feel that you can’t work and you should be entitled to Social Security Disability. Should you apply? An Augusta disability attorney explains the keys to disability benefits.
SSA’s Unique Definition of Disability
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has its’ own definition of disability. In order to qualify for benefits you have to meet the definition. Under the SSA definition, you must “not be able to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment(s).” Your impairment must (1) be expected to result in death, or (2) have lasted, or be expected to last, for a continuous period of at least 12 months.
You Have the Burden of Proof
When you apply for Social Security disability benefits you have the burden of proving that you qualify for benefits. What is meant by burden of proof? Basically that means that your case starts with the assumption that you are not disabled. You will not be determined to be eligible unless you prove that you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity because of an impairment that meets the definition used by the SSA. This means that a medical professional will have to provide evidence of your disability.
You must also prove that your impairment is medically determinable! According to the Social Security Act, medically determinable means that …“the impairment results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.”
How You Prove Your Impairment Is Medically Determinable and Disabling
Are you going to be able to prove that you have “a medically-determinable” impairment? How are you supposed to prove that you are disabled? The simple answer is that you cannot prove that you are disabled on your own. You are going to need an opinion from your doctor.
It will not be enough for the doctor to provide a letter that says you are disabled. Your medical records need to show the treatment that you have received and the diagnostic testing that supports the doctor’s opinion.
The fact that your doctor indicates that you are unable to go back to your job does not necessarily mean that you are disabled under the SSA definition. You need to prove not only that you are unable to do the tasks required for the job that you were doing, but also, that you are unable to engage in “any” substantial gainful employment.
Medical evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment are the keys to your success in obtaining disability benefits. If your doctor is not familiar with Social Security disability claims, you may need to consider having a doctor who is experienced with such claims review your medical records and provide an additional opinion as to your disability. Doctors are trained to provide medical care. That is what they do. They conduct exams, prescribe medications, perform surgery, and conduct diagnostic tests. Their goal is to keep you healthy or get you back to health. Trying to fit your condition into a narrowly defined set of terms that have nothing to do with your health may not be what your doctor is good at.
You need your doctor on your side and you need to know that the doctor understands what is needed to satisfy the SSA. Talk to your doctor during the course of your treatment. Let him or her know that you are applying for Social Security disability. If you and your doctor, or you alone, feel that there may be more information that needs to be given to the SSA or that the doctor needs guidance, make an appointment to talk to an attorney who handles Social Security disability claims and find out what information can be provided to assist the doctor.
What an Attorney Can Do
An attorney cannot provide an opinion as to your disability. An attorney cannot diagnose your impairment. An experienced disability attorney can look at your medical records and talk to your doctor about additional medical evidence that may help your case. You may need further clinical or laboratory tests to strengthen your claim. If you are treating with more than one doctor, an attorney will be able to look at all of your records to see if your combined conditions are enough to allow you to qualify for benefits.
An attorney can explain to your doctor how to submit a written report to the SSA that provides the kind of information the SSA is looking for. An attorney can review your SSA file to make sure that it includes all your medical records. Claims are sometimes denied simply because some medical records are missing.
If your case requires a hearing, an attorney can question witnesses and make sure your evidence is presented completely and fairly to the judge.
There are a number of conditions that prevent people from being able to earn a living. If you are unable to earn a living because of a physical or a mental condition or a combination of conditions, you may be disabled and entitled to money from the Social Security Administration. This may be true, even if you are able to do some work but not enough to earn a living. The only way that you will be able to find out if you are entitled to benefits is to get a thorough medical evaluation and proper medical treatment.
If you would like to discuss your situation with an experienced Augusta disability attorney, call us. Your initial case assessment is free.