How to Prove Disability

When seeking to qualify for either Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, you will be required to prove your disability. Even when the claim seems like it would be obvious and straightforward, you need to remember that only about 30% of all claims initially presented to the Social Security Administration are denied for one reason or another. This is one reason why Social Security claims can be so frustrating if you are pursuing it by yourself, and why many people opt to work with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer.

Disability As Defined by the Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration has a very clear definition of a disability. If you are only partially or temporarily disabled, you will not be able to claim SSDI or SSI benefits. You must show that:

  1. You cannot do the work you did previously, due to the disability
  2. You are unable to do change occupations or do other work due to the disability
  3. The disability will last longer than a year or is anticipated to result in death

If you are able to meet these criteria, you will not be able to engage in any substantial gainful activity. This qualification can be revoked if you earn too much income in a month. 

Collect and Organize Your Medical Records

Common claim denials result from the failure of the applicant to provide sufficient medical documentation as evidence of the disability. Spending some time developing your medical documentation can help you prove your disability during the first review period.

The Social Security Administration will need to see records of your disability going back to when it was first discovered. This is known as your disability onset date. This can be difficult to determine for some conditions, so leverage family and friends if needed.

Your doctors can be a priceless resource, your medical care team should be able to provide you with the records or documentation you need. If necessary, they may also be able to furnish a mental health assessment to be presented to the Social Security Administration. Make sure you adhere to your doctor’s directives for treatment as well, or the SSA may deny your claim for lack of consistent treatment.

Make Sure You Meet the Requirements

Any disability can be challenging to prove, but this can be especially true for those seeking benefits for mental illnesses or conditions. Some will be significant or severe enough that the Social Security Administration will simply grant the benefits. The conditions that qualify someone for SSDI or SSI benefits are detailed in the Blue Book, which contains all of the criteria for qualification based on medical diagnosis.

Some conditions, like arthritis, asthma, and heart disease may be severe enough that the SSA will only need limited medical documentation. Some conditions will require more rigorous proof, such as mental disorders. Mental disorder claimants will need to meet various criteria that are designed for their particular mental disorder category, such as anxiety or psychosis.

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