You have worked hard your whole life at the same job. You never made great money, but you made a good living and were able to provide for your family. You imagined working until age 65 or so and having a quiet, simple retirement.
All of a sudden, you were diagnosed with a severe health problem. Before you knew it, you were unable to do the job that you’ve been doing for 20 years. What are you supposed to do now? Friends and family are telling you that you should apply for Social Security Disability, but is that really the right thing for you? Are you really disabled?
It is devastating when a health problem prevents you from doing the only job that you’ve ever known. You are left not knowing what your options are. If people are encouraging you to look into filing for Social Security Disability because you are unable to perform your old job, it is important that you first understand the definition of disability.
The Social Security Administration defines disability as the inability to participate in substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental condition that is expected to last at least 12 months. In plain English, this means that in order to be considered disabled by the Social Security Administration, you must be unable to make more than $1,040.00 per month doing any job that you used to do or any other job that you could reasonably be expected to learn for at least the next 12 months.
It is not enough for you to say that you meet the criteria for being disabled. You must have medical records to back this up. For instance, if you say you are unable to sit in one spot for more than 10 minutes, you must have medical records that say you are unable to sit in one spot for more than 10 minutes and the records must state a medical reason why that is the case.
The one thing about the definition of disability that confuses most people is that you are not automatically considered disabled just because you can no longer do the job you used to do. The Social Security Administration also looks to see if there are any other jobs that you can do. For example, let’s say Jake has been a construction worker his whole life. He graduated high school and immediately went to work for his dad’s construction company. At age 45, after many years of wear and tear on his body, Jake’s back began hurting him enough that he could no longer perform the duties of his job such as carrying bundles of roofing shingles and pushing heavy wheelbarrows full of concrete. Jake goes to his doctor, who agrees with him that he can no longer perform the intensely physical work that he was used to doing.
Does this mean that Jake is disabled? No. Even though Jake can no longer do construction work, there are many other, less physical, jobs that he could perform. Without any formal training, he could be a cashier, assembler or security guard. Jake is young enough that the Social Security Administration does not think it is unreasonable for Jake to get some schooling or specialized training that would open up even more job possibilities for him. In deciding whether you are disabled, Social Security will look at whether you can perform the job you used to perform and any other jobs that you are physically and mentally capable of doing.
Let’s continue to use Jake’s situation to demonstrate a couple of other misconceptions about disability. If Jake is unable to get hired as a cashier, assembler or security guard either because there are applicants that are more qualified than him or there are no job openings, does that mean that Social Security will consider him to be disabled? The answer is no. The Social Security Administration does not consider whether you can get another job in determining whether you are disabled. They just look at whether it is possible for you to perform another job.
Lastly, does it matter that Jake will make significantly less money being a cashier than he did as a construction worker? No, it doesn’t. As long as you can make more than $1,040.00 per month at a different job, the Social Security Administration does not look at the pay cut you will be taking, because you are unable to do your previous job, when determining if you are disabled.
If you have suffered from a serious health problem and you are unable to perform your old job, it does not automatically mean that you are considered disabled by the Social Security Administration. It is important that you determine if there are any other jobs that you can do. Don’t navigate the confusing Social Security rules on your own. Call Steidl & Steinberg at 800-360-9392. We can help you to determine if applying for Social Security Disability is the right way for you to go, and we can help you get the benefits you deserve if you really are disabled.