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Who determines disability, and how?

Published on August 9th, 2012

When people apply for Social Security disability benefits, there are a lot of unknowns. They might wonder, “Would I qualify for disability? How does the Social Security Administration determine if I am disabled? For that matter, who makes that decision?”

These are all excellent questions. Generally, the SSA is required to gather a person’s medical records and examine their health problems. Other aspects of their life are also considered, including their age and work and education experience.

If officials with the SSA decide that a person cannot do the work that they have done in the past, they consider if there is any other work a person can do, taking into account their health problems, age and work experience.

As for who decides, a person’s Social Security disability claim is sent to an examiner at the Disability Determination agency in their state. The examiner then makes a decision whether to accept or deny the claim after working with a doctor.

If a person’s claim is denied, a person can ask that it be reconsidered, and then the claim is sent to another examiner at the same agency. If the claim is denied once again, a person can request a hearing. It’s at that point that an administrative law judge makes the final call.

From when a person files a claim to that final decision, particularly if an appeal is involved, it can take a while. The SSA has attempted to move through claims faster after being harshly criticized for moving slowly as people have waited for their benefits.

Source: NOSSCR, “How does Social Security determine if I am disabled?” Aug. 2012

•· Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Chicago Social Security disability page.

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