Social Security Disability Law Podcast

How Sick Must You Be to Win Social Security Disability Benefits?

February 15, 2019 Jonathan Ginsberg Season 1 Episode 5
Social Security Disability Law Podcast
How Sick Must You Be to Win Social Security Disability Benefits?
Show Notes

How do you know if you are sick or injured enough to win Social Security disability benefits?

While every case is different, certain patterns do emerge, and after 25+ years of trying cases, I want to share with you my opinions about what it takes to win SSDI benefits now.

If your impairment is physical or involves a damaged body part or system, Social Security disability judges want to see objective evidence of your problem.  Ideally, this takes the form of an MRI or CT scan, an ultrasound, a pulmonary function test, blood test or any other medical test that confirms a specific diagnosis.  This is why pain conditions like CRPS or fibromyalgia have become so difficult to win.

Judges also look for a long and consistent medical treatment record, and support from your doctor - ideally a specialist - the form of a functional capacity evaluation or narrative report.

My experience has also been that a long and consistent work history goes a long way to establish your credibility, and judge expect your treatment to follow a familiar path.

Mental health cases are more difficult because there is no way (usually) to objectively document their existence.  There are, for example, no MRI tests to gauge the severity of your depression, anxiety or PTSD.

Further, my experience has been that judges may discount the opinion evidence of a psychologist who appears to accept your complaints without challenge - often judges will rely on the opinion of a psychologist who evaluates you on a one time basis during a Social Security consultative evaluation.

And finally, what constitutes a severe enough mental health condition to disable you from all work can vary widely among judges.

You may find the demands of Social Security judges in both medical and mental health claims to be wildly unfair but this is the current environment and the more you know about what is demanded, the better you and your lawyer can prepare.

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Jonathan Ginsberg
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