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How SSA Defines Disability in SSD Cases info-icon

To make a determination about an individual’s disability, the Administration goes through a sequential process. First, they look at whether the person is engaged in substantial gainful activity. It is like a flowchart. If somebody is engaged in substantial gainful activity, they will not qualify for benefits. If they are not engaged in substantial gainful activity, they move to the next step of the process.

The next step is to determine whether the applicant has a severe impairment. A severe impairment is any medically determinable condition, either physical or mental, that has either lasted 12 months, is expected to last 12 months, or result in death. It also has to interfere with basic work-related activities. If the administration does not find that there is a severe impairment, or the impairment is expected to pass, the process ends there and the person’s claim will be denied.

Even if SSA determines the individual has a severe impairment, however, the person does not automatically qualify for benefits. SSA first needs to determine whether an individual’s impairments, either singly or in combination, meet or equal the severity of a listing. Social Security has a number of different listings broken up into broad categories of disability. There are listings for neurological problems, digestive issues, mental disabilities, and other conditions. If the individual meets the criteria of a listing, they would have a finding of disability. If not, SSA considers the person’s residual functional capacity (RFC).

RFC is a function-by-function assessment designed to evaluate the applicant’s maximum sustained work ability and limitations. This includes a number of criteria, such as:

  • The individual’s ability to lift, stand, and sit
  • Postural limitations, such as stooping, crouching, or kneeling
  • Environmental restrictions, such as sensitivity to extreme weather or pulmonary irritants
  • Mental health concerns, such as difficulties being around others, managing stress, or keeping up with fast-paced environments

SSA looks at all these different issues to determine an individual’s residual functional capacity and compare it to their work history. Given the claimant’s RFC, if they could still perform their past work, the claim is denied. If the person can no longer perform their previous jobs, SSA looks at other work in the national economy. The Administration also considers factors such as age and education.

If SSA determines the individual could perform work aside from their previous job, they would deny the claim. If they determine that the claimant’s residual functional capacity precludes other work, they would approve the claim. This gets easier with age, especially as the applicant reaches their 50s.

SSA’s findings at each step of the claim evaluation process can make or break a disability application. If a claimant makes a small error or does not provide adequate documentation, SSA may believe they do not meet the definition of disability and issue a denial.

If you are unable to work due to injury or illness, Social Security Disability benefits could make a critical difference in your life. To increase your chance of a successful application, consider contacting a dedicated attorney for help with your case. Call now to set up a consultation.

Short-Term Disability Lawyer info-icon

Though the benefit amount is subject to change, short-term disability benefits typically cover slightly more than half of an individual’s lost wages. People can usually collect short-term disability benefits when:

  • Injuries are sustained at home
  • Injuries are sustained in car accidents
  • A person is affected by a serious illness like pneumonia

These benefits can be critical in providing you with the financial support that you need as you face a serious injury or illness, and an attorney can be instrumental in helping you secure these benefits.

At the Walner Law Group, our short-term disability attorneys understand the financial security that such benefits can offer you and your family as you recover, and we are dedicated to helping you receive them when you qualify. To discuss the particulars of your situation with one of our experienced lawyers today, please call 480-508-8800.

Available Social Security Benefitsinfo-icon

The benefits you get from the government for retirement, disability and the like come from the Social Security Administration, or SSA. These benefits are in place to help people who for some reason can’t make ends meet with normal employment, or who have put in enough years to have reached a time in life when they are entitled to receive benefits.

The official name of this program is the OASDI, or Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance Program. The benefits available fall into four categories: retirement, disability, survivor and dependent benefits.

Those who have worked for a certain number of years (usually at least ten years, in a job not working for the government), are entitled to receive retirement benefits under Social Security. These benefits can begin at age 62, but if you choose to hold off until the full retirement age of 65 or 67 (depending on your birth year), you will earn higher benefits. Likewise, if you wait until age 70, your benefits will increase even further.

Disability benefits can kick in if you get hurt in such a way that you are unable to hold down gainful employment. The SSA publishes specific rules as to what qualifies as a disabling condition, usually using medical guidelines under the American Medical Association or AMA. These benefits can range up to your full retirement benefits but vary based on your level of disability.

If you’re the spouse of someone who has become disabled or retired and qualifies for benefits, you may also be able to collect benefits based on their earnings. Your minor children, if any, may also be entitled to these benefits. You can receive these benefits regardless of whether you rely on your spouse for financial support.

Likewise, if you were married to someone who qualified for Social Security, and they pass away, you may be entitled to survivor’s benefits from the SSA. These benefits will also be based on the earnings record of your deceased spouse, and again, your minor children will also be entitled to such benefits.

Under current laws following the Supreme Court’s recognition of same-sex marriage, same-sex couples are entitled to OASDI benefits, just as are intersex couples. However, there have been times when these and other people who are entitled to benefits have been denied.

It’s more common to be denied benefits, than you might think. If you are denied, it’s not necessarily the end of the road for you. You can challenge a denial, but you’ll need help from a Social Security lawyer. Call Walner Law Group today.

What are Veteran Disability Benefits?info-icon

There are a number of different ways in which veterans may need guidance and support when seeking disability benefits, including:

  • Initial application assistance
  • Disability benefits appeal
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) claims

If you need help with these or any other matters concerning veterans’ disability benefits, an attorney can help.

If you or a loved one has served in the armed forces and suffers from a disabling condition, an attorney from the Walner Law Group can help. We have a great wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to handling veterans’ disability benefits claims and can put it all to use for you. Call 480-508-8800 today to speak with an experienced legal professional about filing a disability claim and the support we can provide.

Can I Submit a Claim for my Child's Disability?info-icon

The application process for SSD benefits can be exceedingly complicated for anyone; unfortunately, many of the initial applications that the Social Security Association (SSA) receives are denied. With that in mind, it is critical that your application for SSD benefits includes:

  • All completed forms
  • All required documentation
  • An accurate, acceptable description of your child’s disability


These benefits can be critical for any family, but even a single misstep can lead to the denial of an SSD benefits application. Our SSD representation attorneys know exactly what it takes to successfully apply for these benefits, and we may help you accurately complete your application.

At Walner Law Group, our  SSD attorneys can help you complete your child’s SSD benefits application in an accurate and timely manner.  Please call our offices at 480-508-8800 today.

Important Definitions When Applying for Disability info-icon

Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is an income threshold, above which an applicant does not qualify for disability benefits. SSA increases this number each year to accommodate increases in living expenses. For 2018, the general SGA threshold is $1,180 per month. For individuals who are statutorily blind, SGA is $1,970 per month.

If an individual is engaged with substantial gainful activity, they cannot obtain benefits, regardless of the extent or nature of their disability. For example, an individual may be bed-bound but own a company and have people working under them. Even though they have a disability, they are reporting income from their company. If that income exceeds the SGA threshold, they do not qualify for benefits.

Another example is someone who is self-employed. Perhaps they babysit or do another job on the side, and they do not think of it as work. Even if this income does not seem like much to them, they cannot qualify for disability benefits if it exceeds SGA.

Work credits have to do with how much one pays into the Social Security system while they are working. In 2018, for every $1,320 someone earns, they earn one work credit. Individuals can earn one credit per quarter, for a total of four work credits per year. may earn up to four credits per year by quarter.

Work credits determine a person’s eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). To qualify for benefits under this program, individuals must have earned a minimum number of work credits. An applicant’s age determines the number of credits they must have earned. Individuals age 31 or older need at least 20 credits earned in the last 10 years prior to becoming disabled.

Residual functional capacity (RFC) is an applicant’s ability to perform work despite their condition. SSA breaks this down into many different categories. For example, they consider an individual’s postural abilities, their lifting limitations, and environmental factors. In many cases, SSA denies applications because it determines that their RFC enables them to return to work.

For example, an individual’s RFC may limit them to light work, meaning they could lift tens pounds frequently, 20 pounds occasionally, and be on their feet for a maximum of six hours per day. In addition, the person should not be exposed to pulmonary irritants more than one-third of the time. With this RFC, the person should not be required to work in the presence of hazards, operate a motor vehicle, or engage in fast-paced work. The RFC is then compared with the person’s employment history and other available jobs to determine if they are able to perform some work.

Learning some basic Social Security terminology is a helpful first step when seeking disability benefits. However, complying with SSA requirements can often be confusing and difficult in practice. An experienced attorney could put their knowledge to work on behalf of an applicant, guiding them through every step of the application or appeals process. To learn more about how an attorney could help in your case, call today.

Difficulties Applying for Social Security Disability Benefitsinfo-icon

Many people find the instructions for the SSDI or SSI applications unclear and hard to follow. For example, one portion of the application asks people about their work history. This section asks about how often they had to be on their feet, sit down, walk, lift, and things of that nature. Many applicants do not recognize that they are supposed to break that down into time limits. They may just check a box because they had to lift or they had to be on their feet.

One common mistake when filling out the application is to list their current capabilities instead of the requirements of their previous job. For example, someone may say they can only lift 10 lbs, but at their factory job, they actually had to lift 50 to 100 lbs. That portion of the application is trying to classify an individual’s past work to determine if they can return to the job. If they say they only had to lift 10 lbs at their previous job, SSA may determine they can return to work.

Additionally, the application is lengthy. People tend to take shortcuts on the answers, but this can lead to a denial. It is helpful for claimants to have someone to guide them through the process so they know what is important to highlight in the application.

A person’s doctor may advise them that they should not continue working, yet Social Security may still deny the claim. In this case, the applicant should follow their doctor’s advice and continue to receive ongoing treatment. Whether or not social security has found them disabled, it is important that an individual continues to treat with their doctor. Especially for those under the age of 50, Social Security is not only concerned with their past work but also their ability to do other jobs in the national economy.

For example, suppose a disabled worker used to have a factory job lifting 50 to 100 lbs every day. They may not be able to perform that job due to the disability, but that does not preclude them from desk jobs or small parts assembly jobs. That changes as they get older. If someone becomes disabled at age 50, for example, they may not have developed skills that can be used in a sit-down type of work environment. It becomes even less of a burden to prove when they are past the age of 55.

Overall, individuals whose claims were denied should continue with medical treatment and talk to a qualified attorney who could help frame their case in the best light. A disability lawyer may suggest the individual’s doctor fill out a residual functional capacity questionnaire. That questionnaire breaks down the claimant’s diagnoses and limitations, such as their ability to sit, stand, elevate their legs, or use their hands. Doctors are often in the best position to help claimants highlight their limitations, so a residual functional capacity assessment can be helpful.

If you encountered difficulties when applying for Social Security disability benefits, a compassionate and knowledgeable attorney at Walner Law may be able to help. They could compile documentation, walk you through the application process, and even appeal a denied claim, if necessary. To learn how an attorney can help in your situation, call today.

What are Common Mistakes when Filing for SSDI Benefits?info-icon

While every SSDI case will present its own unique set of challenges, there are some common issues that a competent SSDI lawyer can help you avoid. Among the most common errors when filing for SSDI benefits are:

  • Missing or incorrectly completed documentation
  • Inaccurate representation of the disability
  • Incomplete application

While some individuals may have their SSDI claims denied with or without a lawyer, it is important to know that this does not necessarily mean that individual is not eligible. In these cases, an experienced lawyer can help individuals re-file or, in some situations, can help you make your case before an administrative law judge.

At Walner Law, our lawyers know how critical SSDI benefits can be to the financial well-being of qualified individuals and their families.   Call now for a free consultation 480-508-8800.

Social Security Disability Denial Lawyerinfo-icon

There are two kinds of benefits most people can collect from the Social Security Administration (SSA) when they suffer a medical disability which renders them unable to hold down gainful employment. These include SSDI, or Social Security Disability Insurance, which is available to those who have worked a certain length of time, and Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, which is available to low-income elderly or disabled people.

SSDI is part of the U.S. Social Security program, while SSI is not.

To qualify for SSDI, you have to possess a certain number of work credits. The exact number of credits required depends on how old you are and when you suffered your injury or disability. In general, you need to have worked at least some portion of five of the prior ten years to your disability. These payments average between $1,000 and $1,200 each month but could be higher for higher earners who paid higher taxes.

After 24 months of SSDI benefits, you are also eligible to sign onto Medicare, no matter what age you are. Until then, low-income individuals can sometimes qualify for Medicaid.

SSI is administered by the SSA but is actually a program that’s an agreement between the federal and state government. Eligibility for this can vary from case to case, but in general, the following requirements must be met:

  • You must be at least age 65, blind or disabled
  • You must be a citizen or meet very specific requirements related to U.S. residency, refugee status, military service or political asylum
  • Your income must be lower than the state’s minimum for eligibility
  • You must not own property (minus home, car and certain other items) of greater value than $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.


SSI benefits, if granted, are $735 monthly for an individual or $1,103 each month for a couple, minus a portion of any other income you have.

The SSA defines disability as proving that you have a condition which prevents you from maintaining gainful employment, which will also last at least a year, or which will result in your death. There is a great deal of leeway in defining disability under the law, and for this reason, a lot of people find their claims denied.

When this happens, your best bet is to contact a qualified SSDI attorney. Social Security disability lawyers will be able to help you defend your condition, prove that you are disabled, and secure the benefits to which you’re entitled. Denial of claims isn’t the end of the road, but it can mean a tough fight which can be even harder without the right legal help.

For many years, the attorneys at Walner Law have helped people fight for the disability benefits they need to remain solvent in a tough world. We’ve helped others, and we can help you as well. Just get in touch with us today for a free case evaluation.

Back Payinfo-icon

There are two dates that become important in your social security claim: The EOD, or Established Onset Date, and the MOD, or Medical Onset Date. Each is used for different reasons in evaluating your claim. The MOD is the date that your injury reached the stage where you qualify as disabled under the SSDI, but you haven’t yet met the other important criteria for eligibility.

The EOD, on the other hand, is the date that your impairment actually stopped you from being able to work. Determination of the EOD requires four factors:

  1. You can no longer perform your prior work
  2. You cannot perform other kinds of work
  3. Your condition will last at least a year, and possible for the rest of your life
  4. You have enough work credits and legal status to qualify for SSDI.

If your EOD is before you filed your SSDI application, you may be able to obtain back pay.

There is also a certain period after your EOD during which you have to wait before benefits kick in. This waiting period is five months following the first of the month after your EOD. Thus, if you get hurt on the second day of the month, your total wait will be one day shy of six months.

In addition, you cannot receive more than one year of retroactive back pay, after accounting for your waiting period. Thus, if you have an EOD of February 2, 2016, when you apply for benefits, your waiting period begins on March 1 and ends on August 1.

If you apply for benefits on August 1, 2017, you’ll get benefits dated back to August 1, 2016. However, if you apply for benefits on July 1, 2017, you’ll still only get benefits back to August 1, 2016, because the waiting period is not factored into the 12 months.

Applying for social security benefits can be complicated, confusing and even frustrating. Getting the full benefits to which you’re entitled can require the right kind of experienced help in the form of a knowledgeable disability lawyer.

At Walner Law, we’ve got decades of combined experience in helping people who are disabled get the benefits and compensation awards they need. We can help you avoid pitfalls and challenge denials of your benefits to help you keep control of your life. Get in touch with our team of skilled social security disability lawyers today to learn how we can help with your SSDI claim.