Social Security disability benefits are available to anyone who meets the federal definition of disabled and is incapable of working. In other words, you don’t have to be injured at work to recover disability benefits. Injuries suffered at work are sometimes better addressed by the workers’ compensation system, although they may also lead to a disability claim. To better understand how the disability system works, let’s look at some of its basic components.
How does the federal government define “disability”?
Under federal law, in order to be deemed “disabled” for the purposes of recovering disability benefits, you must have a physical or mental condition that has lasted or is expected to last for at least a year or is expected to result in death. Additionally, your condition must prevent you from engaging in “substantial gainful activity,” which generally equates to work.
Although this is the broad definition provided by the federal government, each qualifying medical condition has its own requirements that must be met. Some require that you present evidence of how your condition has affected your ability to manage yourself, while others require you to demonstrate how you’ve sought out care for your condition unsuccessfully.
Therefore, if you’re unable to work due to an injury or medical condition, you’ll want to make sure that you’re assessing the requirements for your condition.
Proving your disability
If you think that you have a disabling condition, whether it was a workplace injury or not, you need to be prepared to gather evidence to support your disability claim. To do so, you may want to look for each of the following:
- Medical records that show the seriousness of your condition and the treatment that you’ve received
- Employment records that demonstrate that you’ve been paying into the system
- Accident reports from your employer that show how your injuries were suffered, if your condition arose from a workplace incident
- Your journal or other personal accounts of how your condition has affected your ability to live your life and seek out and maintain employment
- Witness statements pertaining to the impact of your medical condition
Remember, you want this evidence to speak to the requirements that you have to meet in order to qualify for disability benefits under your specific condition. Therefore, you’ll want to be diligent in gathering the evidence necessary to prove those elements.
What if your claim is denied?
Many disability claims are initially denied because they lack proper medical evidence. Although you can work hard on the front end to prevent your claim from being denied, you shouldn’t lose hope if you do receive an initial denial. This is because you have the ability to appeal your denial, which will give you an opportunity to present additional evidence to support your case. If you’re thorough here, you can stand a strong chance of recovering the benefits that you need and deserve.
Do you need more information?
There’s some overlap between the Social Security disability system and the workers’ compensation system. You need to know which one is right for you to pursue in order to secure the benefits that you need to offset your losses. By talking to an attorney who is experienced in both areas of the law, you can better figure out how to navigate the process to your advantage.
By doing so, you’ll hopefully be able to secure the outcome that allows you to obtain financial stability while you focus on your recovery.