Should you apply for disability?

Chicago residents: Here is how your claim will be evaluated

Many people in Chicago who apply for disability do not understand what it means to be disabled under the Social Security Administration’s rules.

Being unable to perform your last job is not determinative. Perhaps you worked in a warehouse moving heavy boxes and a back injury now prevents you from lifting.  If you can sit for lengthy periods with your injury and have the required education, you may be able to perform a desk job.  Or maybe you can stand for hours and so can work on an assembly line.

What is required

1. A medically-determinable impairment. Your personal belief that you are severely impaired is insufficient.  Your impairment must be diagnosed by an approved medical professional and this diagnosis must be confirmed with medical evidence.  If you allege an illness that has not been recognized by medical professionals or have an illness that cannot be supported by a doctor’s findings, then your claim will be denied.

2. Lengthy impairment.  Your illness or impairment must last at least 12 continuous months or be expected to end in death. A broken arm may currently prevent you from working, but most breaks heal fully and so will not satisfy the length requirement.

3. Severe functional limitation. Your illness or impairment must be severe enough to significantly limit your ability to work. High blood pressure which has not damaged organs, bad but correctible vision, moderate aches and pains, and non-debilitating arthritis will not qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

4. Unable to work.  You cannot: (a) currently be working, (b) be able to do a past relevant job, or (c) perform work that exists in reasonable quantity. Thus if you had an easy job sometime in the last 15 years that you can still perform, or if you have the capability to work at a different job, you will not be found disabled. The older you are, the more likely you are to be found unable to work.

This simplified description of the Social Security Administration’s complex determination process should be helpful in ruling out the clearly unqualified cases, but we urge you to apply for disability in Chicago if it is unclear whether or not your impairment qualifies.