In many cases, a person is suffering from serious health conditions but has not stopped working yet, and they are worried that their conditions will get worse to the point that they will be unable to continue working. In other cases, individuals have already had to reduce their time on the job and don’t know if there current level of work will make them ineligible for benefits. One of the initial questions to consider when deciding whether are not you should file for Social Security Disability benefits is whether or not you have a “severe” mental or physical impairment.
A “severe” physical or mental medical impairment is defined by the Social Security Administration as an impairment that prevents a person from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. remember from our previous blog posts that substantial gainful activity is the term Social Security uses for working and earning more than $1,070.0 a month, or $1,800.00 if you are blind (1,090 and $1,820 in 2015). A “severe” impairment is one that significantly limits your ability to perform as least one work-related activity such as:
•walking, sitting, standing, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying or handling
•hearing, speaking, and seeing
•understanding and following simple directions
•interacting with co-workers and supervisors, and adjusting to changes in your work.
A non-severe physical or mental impairment is one that has only a minimal effect on a person’s ability to perform basic work activities. In many cases, an individual may not have one health condition that would be considered severe but has multiple health problems that prevent them from working on a full time basis. In these situations, the Social Security Administration will look at all of your medical conditions and determine whether the combined effects of all your conditions prevent you from being able to work full time or at SGA levels.
As an example, a person who only suffers from hypertension or high cholesterol will generally be seen to have a non-severe condition and would not be eligible for disability benefits but an individual with hypertension, COPD, mild depression, and chronic back pain may be eligible. So, even if an impairment that an individual suffers from, each alone, does not qualify an individual for Social Security Disability benefits, if the SSA determines that the combination of impairments is severe, one may still qualify for benefits.
The SSA will look to your medical records to determine whether you have a severe impairment. Medical evidence from your doctors and/or other medical professionals is therefore very important and it is important to have consistent medical treatment for all of your conditions. It is equally important to provide the Social Security Administration with all of your relevant medical records so that they can properly evaluate your case.
If you believe that you are eligible for Social Security Disability, or if you have been denied Social Security Disability benefits, the attorneys at Grimes Teich Anderson llp, may be able to help.