How the Social Security Administration decides whether you are “disabled”

We work with a lot of Savannah and other Georgia Social Security disability claimants who are disabled in various ways. However, it is important to understand that the way that the Social Security Administration uses the way the word “disabled” does not necessarily match the way it is normally used.

Different government programs and agencies use the word “disabled” differently

It would seem that it would make sense for every government agency to mean the same thing when they used the word “disabled” but that is not the way it is.

For example, you will find different definitions of the word “disabled” in the rules and regulations governing:

  • The Veteran’s Administration.
  • Various workers compensation programs.
  • Insurance policies.
  • The Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Administration defines “disabled” according to your ability to work

In the Social Security Act the term “disability” is defined as an inability “to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”

The words “substantial gainful activity” mean “work” so this definition of disability means that for purposes of qualifying for Social Security disability benefits, you are disabled only if you (1) cannot do your previous work, and (2) cannot do “any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.”

Who decides whether you are disabled for purposes of Social Security disability benefits?

The Social Security Administration contracts out the initial decision on your application to a state agency. Therefore, after you file your disability claim, it is a disability examiner at the Georgia Disability Determination agency who makes the initial decision. If the examiner denies your claim and you request reconsideration then your case is sent to a different disability examiner in the same Georgia agency who reconsiders it.

Most claims are denied at this initial stage, and then denied at the reconsideration stage. At that point you may request an appeal hearing. For this appeal hearing your case is sent to an Administrative Law Judge who works for the Social Security Administration. This Administrative Law Judge conducts a hearing and makes an independent decision on your claim.

Have a Georgia disability lawyer help with your Social Security claim

Dealing with the Social Security Administration can be confusing because of the many rules and regulations that define words in ways that might be different than what we are used to. Particularly when you reach the appeal stage it is extremely important to have the help and guidance of an experienced Georgia Social Security disability lawyer.

If you are not already represented by a Savannah or other Georgia Social Security disability lawyer, consider asking for our evaluation of your claim. Give us a brief description of your claim using the form to the right, or you may contact our office at:

Durden, Rice & Barfield, P.C.
Southeast Georgia Social Security disability lawyers
Appointments available in Dublin, Pooler, Savannah, Statesboro, and Vidalia

E-mail

501 Jackson Street
Vidalia, Georgia 30474