According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the Bureau of Disability Determination processes, on average, 145,000 disability claims each year. The Bureau’s job is to determine if individuals are eligible for one of two federal programs: Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. SSDI is the more favorable of the two programs, but qualifying for it is not easy.
To qualify for SSDI, an individual’s condition must meet the Social Security’s Administration’s strict definition of a disability. According to the SSA, a disability is an injury that prevents a worker from performing any substantial work. The injury must have lasted for one year, or a qualified medical professional must expect it to last for one year and/or to result in death.
Moreover, to qualify for benefits, the individual must have worked and paid into Social Security taxes for an adequate period of time. The person must be an insured worker or the child or widow(er) of an insured worker. Finally, the person must pass the Social Security Administration’s strict determination process.
The SSA uses a five-step process to determine whether or not a person’s injury qualifies as a disability. First, the Administration will question whether or not an applicant is employed at the time of consideration and, if so, how much he or she earns, on average. If an applicant earns more than $1,220 a month, the SSA is unlikely to consider him or her disabled. If a person does not work and/or earns less than $1,220 a month, the SSA will move on to step two.
Step two involves assessing the severity of one’s injury. A severe injury limits one’s ability to do basic work such as standing, sitting, lifting, walking and remembering for at least 12 months. If the injury does not hinder one’s ability to do any of these tasks, the SSA will not consider the person disabled.
If the SSA determines that a person’s injury is severe, it will then refer to its list of disabling conditions. This list is comprised of medical conditions so severe that they inhibit a person’s ability to engage in substantial gainful activity. If a condition is on the list, it qualifies as a disability. If it is not, the SSA must decide whether the injury is as severe as a listed condition.
In step four, the Administration will decide if a medical impairment prevents a person from performing the same work he or she engaged in prior to sustaining the injury. If so, it will move on to step five.
Finally, in step five, the SSA will look to see if an injured party can engage in any other type of work despite his or her impairment. If not, the party may receive a disability determination.