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How work capacity affects eligibility for disability benefits

In light of the recent scandal involving retired New York firefighters and police officers fraudulently collecting Social Security disability insurance benefits, another look at the SSDI application process may be warranted.

As a preliminary matter, fewer than 40 percent of all SSDI applicants are approved. Given that low approval rate, any misconceptions about government abuse should be put to rest.

In truth, the process by which disability examiners at the Social Security Administration evaluate medical conditions is extremely thorough. Of course, the medical diagnosis and treatment records are a starting point. That will inform the disability examiner of the extent of impairment presented by an applicant’s condition.

However, SSA officials will also need information about an applicant’s past work, and the duties and functions performed in the former capacity. That information is necessary so that SSA officials can independently determine whether an applicant’s current health makes it impossible to continue in his or her previous work.

SSA officials will also request information about an SSDI applicant’s educational and training background. The SSA maintains a listing of jobs and industries, and if an individual is capable of performing certain tasks that SSA officials deem employable, that individual may be denied benefits.

The media covers examples of fraud in practically every industry. In the case of the SSDI program, its lean administrative budget leaves little for enforcement efforts. Perhaps to compensate, SSA officials react by making the application process very difficult. For that reason, most disabled workers deem it wise to consult with a disability benefits attorney before submitting their SSDI application.

Source: The Hill, “Social Security disability fraud is rare,” Katy Neas, Jan. 16, 2014

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