Disability benefits are intended to support people who are unable to work due to a serious, long-term medical condition. Some disabilities are intermittent in nature, causing periods of more pronounced physical or intellectual limitations. These kinds of conditions may or may not qualify for benefits, and while you can always apply, the Social Security Administration (SSA) often quickly denies applicants that don’t meet the basic eligibility requirements.
Duration of Your Disability
Qualifying disabilities are those that are terminal in nature or that have prevented or are expected to prevent gainful employment for a period of 12 months or longer. Many medical conditions are intermittent, causing symptoms that come and go.
While symptoms may be severe during flare-ups, they may not stop you from working long-term. Conditions like these often don’t satisfy the basic eligibility rules for receiving disability benefits because they don’t stop you from working for the minimum 12-month period.
Medical Eligibility Requirements
Disabling conditions are reviewed under standard listings that appear in the SSA’s Blue Book. There are dozens of listings in this manual and each listing outlines the severity level requirements for qualifying. Most applicants that receive benefits either meet a listing exactly or closely match one.
If your condition doesn’t satisfy Blue Book requirements, then getting benefits will be harder. When an intermittent disability causes severe functional impairments however, it can still sometimes qualify for benefits through a residual functional capacity (RFC) evaluation. To grant you benefits through, the SSA will need to look closely at all of your limitations and they must find that your impairment stops you from getting and keeping ANY job.
Other Employment Considerations
When the SSA decides eligibility, they must also take into account other “employability” factors. In other words, they have to decide if you can find and keep a job in which your disability wouldn’t stop you from earning a living. Even if your medical condition stops you from working in your traditional field, disability benefits can only be granted if you can’t reasonably work in any other field either.
Generally speaking, disability applicants that are older, have limited job skills, and those who have less formal education can get approved through an RFC more readily. This is because their employment options are limited by not just their medical condition but other factors too.
Getting Help with Your Social Security Disability Claim
Even an intermittent condition can take a tremendous toll on you, your job, and your ability to earn a consistent living. It can be difficult though to know if your medical condition might qualify you for benefits, especially since there is more than one way to get approved for disability.
A disability attorney or advocate can help you decide if applying for benefits is right for you. He or she can advise you on the success rates of claims like yours and can help you understand what it may take to get an approval from the SSA. If you decide apply, your lawyer or advocate can help you gather evidence, prepare your claim, and can also represent you at an appeal hearing, if you are initially denied benefits.