Filing for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can seem overwhelming — and it is a complex process. Most people have never encountered the system before, so they’re not prepared for all of the steps. Even after they file, what happens next is often a mystery.
Shortly after you make an appointment and file your disability claim, this is the process your claim will take:
- Your application will be reviewed to see if you meet the earnings and insured status requirement for SSD and the financial eligibility for SSI. If you don’t, one or both of the claims could be denied for those reasons.
- The evidence in your file will be sent to a claims examiner at the Disability Determination Services. A determination will be made regarding whether your condition is considered “severe” and likely to last at least 12 months (or end in death). If both of those are true, your claim will move forward.
- Your claim will be compared to the Listing of Impairments. If you have a listed impairment and exactly meet the criteria for disability, your claim can be approved without further consideration.
- If your condition isn’t listed or you don’t meet the exact guidelines, the examiner will see if your combined conditions “equal” the limitations of a listed impairment. If they do, your claim can be approved.
- If your condition is severe but doesn’t meet or equal the listed impairments, SSA will consider whether you can work in any of your past jobs.
- If you cannot work in any of your past jobs, your education and vocational background, combined with your age and limitations, will be evaluated to see if you can do other work that exists in the national economy.
As complicated as this sounds, most of it takes place out of your presence. Decisions are based largely on whatever ends up in your file — which is why it’s so important that you don’t let gaps or mistakes happen. If you’re struggling to get your disability application approved, it may be time to explore the benefits of legal assistance.