Richard A. Gutstadt, P.C.
Northern California SSI & SSDI Appeals

Oakland Social Security Disability Law Blog

Does my medical condition qualify me for benefits?

If you suffer from a severe medical condition,  you may be unable to work for a significant amount of time. You may be suffering from chronic pain, debilitating physical obstructions or severe mental health problems that make working next to impossible.

While you may be entitled to disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), you may struggle to understand whether you are eligible or why you were denied benfits. This is partly because the qualifying conditions can be confusing. In many cases, you will need the support of a medical professional - or the consultation of an attorney - to establish whether you will be able to claim disability benefits. The following is an overview of the qualifying conditions specified by the SSA.

Will the coronavirus halt my Social Security Disability claim?

The COVID-19 virus has halted normal business operations all over the nation -- and the operations at the Social Security Administration (SSA) is no exception.

If you have a Social Security Disability claim in the works, here's what you need to know about SSA's response to the pandemic and how various other concerns may affect your situation:

Handling Your Social Security/SSI Disability Case During the Corona Virus Lockdown.

Here in Oakland and the Bay Area, Social Security is open, but no longer doing business as usual. The Field Offices are closed to public contact, but they continue to communicate by phone and mail.

The Oakland hearing office (and presumably others) has suspended in-person and even telephone disability hearings, which were thought to be a safe and acceptable alternative.

How does Supplemental Security Income work?

  • What is Supplemental Security Income?

SSI, as Supplemental Security Income is often known, is a monthly benefit designed to supplement the income of people with limited income and resources due to disability. A disability may be a permanent serious injury, blindness or  exceeding 65 years when age affects employability.

  • How is this different than Social Security benefits?

Understanding progressive disabilities

There are many different types of disabilities, with two of the main categories being physical disabilities and mental disabilities. Even within these categories, though, it's important to remember that no two conditions are the same. Everyone has their own challenges to face and their own treatment and recovery options.

For example, some disabilities are progressive. The level of impact they have on your life changes. You may have ups and downs. In a general sense, though, these disabilities tend to grow worse over time. There may be nothing that doctors can do to prevent that. Examples include:

  • Chronic Arthritis
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Multiple Sclerosis

What factors are considered when I apply for disability benefits?

There are many factors that Social Security Administration (SSA) reviewers take into account when reviewing disability applicants' files. Your work experience, educational background and age are some of the many factors that these reviewers take into account.

It's a reviewer's job to determine how your disability impacts your ability to work. Reviewers will take into account your aptitude for taking on a job in another field. That individual will take into account your age and education when assessing this.

The 4 levels of disability benefits appeals

Those who are unable to earn a significant income due to their disability may be able to get disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you have already applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and you have received a denial, you may be feeling saddened and frustrated. You may not know what to do to improve your financial situation.

While many people who apply for disability benefits under the SSA are often unsuccessful when they first apply, the good news is that they are often successful when they file an appeal. This is why it is important that you are persistent in your approach and that you understand the four levels of disability appeals.

Noninjury related disabilities

Many disabilities are related to injuries, and may be covered by both Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability Insurance. A worker falls from a ladder and suffers a serious head injury, from which they never fully recover. A person driving home from work gets in a car accident, falls into a coma and wakes up a month later with issues that will never completely heal.

However, it's problematic to assume that all disabilities start with some traumatic event that changes a person's life. Many noninjury related disabilities include chronic medical conditions such as Diabetes,  or disabilities related to trauma that happened when the person was too young to remember it. Examples include:

  • Depression
  • Intellectual disability
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dyslexia
  • Spina bifida
  • Epilepsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Autism

Is depression a disability?

There are a lot of misconceptions about depression. People who don't experience it often equate it with a general sense of sadness, for instance, and they may think that people who suffer from the disorder just need to cheer up. They do not understand how detrimental it can be and how it is often out of someone's control.

My office has successfully represented numerouos clients who suffer from severe mental impairments, alone or in combination with other physical impairments.

It does not help that this is an "invisible" condition. From the outside, a person appears to be in great health. That doesn't mean that what you see is accurate.

What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI) through Social Security?

Social Security is a well-known government insurance program that involves a standard payroll tax deduction applied to working Americans. The government takes a certain amount from each paycheck, paid by both employee and employer, which varies depending on the worker's total income. Later in life, when those workers become disabled or choose to retire, they can draw Social Security insurance benefits that help them avoid outright poverty.

However, not all forms of Social Security come from direct contributions to the system. Individuals who have contributed little or who have not paid in enough via wage taxes to obtain Social Security benefits could still qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Individuals can receive both Socai Security Insurance and SSI if their disability or retirement payments fall below state guidelines.