Disability Benefits Eligibility - How Is It Determined?
In order to receive Social Security disability benefits payments, you must qualify. There are a number of different criteria an applicant needs to comply with in order to establish disability benefits eligibility. The first one is that you have to meet the interpretation of disabled as defined by the SSA, which is that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which must have been present or be expected to be present for a continuous period of twelve months or be expected to result in death. This is called the SGA (substantial gainful activity) reguirement.
The SSA defines substantial gainful activity as working for an amount greater than $900 per month in 2007. Blind people are allowed to earn $1500. This amount applies only to earnings from paid employment. Investment income such as interest or dividends is not counted. What this means is that even if you have an illness or injury that would otherwise qualify you as disabled in the eyes of the SSA, if you earn more than the SGA, you cannot collect disability benefits. If you were earning more than the SGA and stopped work, you must be able to prove that it was because your condition worsened or special assistance that had been available to you at your job was removed.
You also must have a medically determinable impairment. That means that your condition must be able to be corrorborated by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms and laboratory findings. Basically, this means that the SSA won't take your word that you are unable to work. There must be some proof.
Additionally, your impairment must be serious enough to limit the work you could do. If you have an illness or injury that produces medically verifiable symptoms, but they don't prevent you from working, then the SSA will not approve your claim. The Disability Determination Service (DDS) is the state agency that works with Social Security to determine if applicants are qualified to receive disability benefits. They have a 'Listing of Impairments' which they use to decide if your condition is severe enough to prevent you from working. If your illness or injury exactly matches a listing, then you will be considered disabled and your claim approved. If not, then the DDS reviewer must decide if your particular impairment is equal to any listing. This is quite common, since it would be impossible to list all possible combinations of conditions and symptoms in the Listing of Impairments.
If the reviewer decides that your condition doesn't equal any of the listings, then he will move to the next disability benefits eligibility criteria, which is whether or not you can do your prior job. If he decides that you cannot, he will then determine if there are other jobs that you could perform. If not, your claim should be approved at that point. However, if he decides that you can do other jobs, then he'll deny your claim. When the reviewer considers 'other jobs', he doesn't have to determine whether or not those jobs are locally available - just that there are such jobs available in the country.