How to Get Disability Benefits

If you believe you are eligible to receive disability benefits there are a few things that must be done on how to get disability. This includes making sure your disability meets a listing in the Blue Book, providing sufficient medical evidence proving that your disability will prevent you from working for at least 12 months, having enough work credits, submitting  your claim on the proper forms provided by the Social Security administration (SSA) and working with a lawyer.

Meeting the Blue Book Listing

You need to be able to find the qualifying conditions for your disability in the Blue Book to qualify for benefits. The Blue Book is a list of impairments drawn up by the SSA with detailed requirements that the SSA will use when determining whether your disability fits the requirements for eligibility for disability benefits.

As part of its disability-determination process, an SSA examiner will evaluate your evidence against the Blue Book listing for your disability to see if you meet the requirements. If you do, that should be sufficient for the medical section of your claim to be approved.

Just being diagnosed with a medical problem with qualifying conditions does not qualify you automatically for SSDI or SSI. The Blue Book indicates the symptoms, test results or other data that show your medical condition is severe enough to be disabling and it describes the evidence and documentation you are required to produce to prove it.

Supplying Sufficient Medical Evidence

The Blue Book describes examples of medical evidence that you need to provide to support your disability claim. The more evidence you provide the higher chance you have of winning your claim for disability benefits. The sorts of medical evidence that will help support your claim includes:

  • your physician’s medical reports;
  • reports of physical examinations;
  • reports of treatment results;
  • records of medical history;
  • medical reports from specialists;
  • medical imaging reports;
  • hospital and outpatient records including any details of operations required to treat the medical condition.

Need Work Credits to Get SSDI

In addition to meeting the disability definition for your medical condition found in the Blue Book, you need to have worked long enough and recently to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. You need to have earned enough work credits which are calculated based on four credits annually.

In 2021 you earn one credit for $1,470 in wages earned or self-employment income. When you have earned $5,880, you will have accumulated four credits for that year. The number of work credits you will need so that you are eligible for disability benefits will depend on your age when you become disabled.

Typically, you need 40 credits, 20 of which need to have been earned in the last 10 years ending with the last year being the one when you became disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. If you have worked 5 of the last 10 years you’ll likely to have enough work credits to be eligible to receive disability benefits.

Submitting the Correct Forms

You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled and you may complete your application form online. If you want to apply in person, you should make an appointment before you visit your local Social Security office. You will need to provide the following information when completing your social security disability application form:

  • your social security number and proof of your age;
  • a summary of the type of work you did and who you worked for; 
  • medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and that you have in your possession;
  • names and of all the medications you are taking;
  • names, addresses, and phone numbers of doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers that have been treated you;
  • test and laboratory results;
  • the most recent W-2 form or, if you are self-employed, a copy of your federal tax return.

On the social security disability application form you will need to provide information about family members. This includes social security numbers and proof of age for each family member who may qualify for benefits; and proof of marriage, if your spouse is applying for benefits, as well as dates of prior marriages, if applicable.

How to Get Disability Benefits Using an RFC

Before the SSA decides if a disability applicant really has a disability that prevents them from working, the agency needs to determine what kinds of tasks the applicant is still able to do. The SSA may ask a disability claims examiner to complete fill a "Residual Functional Capacity" (RFC) assessment form for the applicant.

However the claimant may ask a physician to perform an RFC. This assessment requires the doctor or examiner to determine the applicant’s ability to undertake physical and mental tasks. If you have a physical disability, your RFC will include the "exertional" level of work you are able to do which are sedentary, light, medium, or heavy. Your exertional level is calculated based on how much you are able to stand, walk, lift, carry, push and pull objects.

Your non-exertional limitations are assessed as well which include your ability or inability to do any of the following activities:

  • stoop, crawl, crouch or climb;
  • be exposed to extremes of temperatures, fumes, sunlight or dust;
  • how much you can use your hands to type, write, reach or handle objects;
  • hear, speak and see.

If you include any mental problems on your disability application, the SSA will investigate the severity of that condition. A mental RFC indicates your ability to:

  • remember, understand and carry out instructions;
  • put up with normal levels of stress;
  • make simple decisions and judgments;
  • maintain attention and concentration for long periods;
  • maintain an ordinary routine without specialist supervision;
  • keep up regular work attendance and arrive on time;
  • keep acceptably clean and neat;
  • interact appropriately with both the public and co workers.

Work With a Lawyer

If you work with a lawyer, you may get the advice you need on how to apply for disability benefits. The lawyer can check to make sure your disability and medical condition is listed in the Blue Book before an application for disability benefits is filed on your behalf.  Fill out the Free Case Evaluation on this page today to get connected with an attorney that takes cases in your area today!

Additional Resources

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