About 23% of adults in Utah have disabilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many are likely to develop destructive habits, such as smoking, or medical conditions like hypertension or obesity.
They might also struggle with work, which can entitle them to Social Security disability benefits. But before first-time claimants apply, though, they need to read the basics:
1. The Definition for Disability Can Vary from ADA
Various federal and state laws safeguard the rights of people with disabilities. One is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It defines disability as any physical or mental (or both) impairment that severely limits a person’s ability to function in their daily lives.
ADA’s goal is to extend equal rights and opportunities to people with disabilities in many areas. These include employment, housing accessibility, education, scholarship applications, etc.
Employed people and children (below 18 years old) with disabilities can also process their disability applications. It will entitle them with a disability benefit from Social Security.
However, SS’s definition of disability slightly varies from that of ADA. It should be a physical or mental impairment likely to last for a year or more. It must also result in a substantial inability to perform their job correctly.
2. Social Security Uses a Blue Book
SS doesn’t award disability benefits to anyone who applies. It follows a rigorous process and uses tools to help in decision making. One is the “blue book.”
The “blue book” refers to the list of qualifying impairments and their criteria. When a person applies for disability, they match the pieces of evidence with those on the list.
If they do, then the person can already proceed with the application process. But what if they don’t?
Few people with disabilities know that SS also considers equal disability listing. An applicant can tell the agency that the symptoms and severity of the impairment are similar to the recognized conditions in their blue book.
Proving equal disability, though, isn’t easy. Applicants can get help from disability advocates to develop a convincing argument or case. Advocates are a group of people that includes attorneys, counselors, and medical professionals.
3. Applicants Can Appeal
The rejection rate for disability applications is high. Usually, SS denies the claim because of:
- Technical problem, which includes submitting the wrong paperwork or lack of enough proof of disability
- Definition of work impairment (e.g., the disability must be significant enough that the person cannot perform their tasks on the same level as they did in the past)
- Employment income
Applicants who think they should qualify for the disability benefit can appeal, which has four levels:
- Reconsideration, which can be for medical or non-medical determination.
- Administrative law judge, when SS denied your reconsideration appeal. The judge is usually less than a hundred miles away from you and isn’t part of the original determination case.
- Appeals council, which will review all appeals and the decision made by the administrative law judge. If it believes the appeal has merit, it can send back the review to the administrative law judge. It might also decide that the SS review panel and the administrative law judge were right.
- The federal court, which will go through the decisions of the appeal council if you don’t agree with the outcome.
Disability benefits can go a long way in covering medical or long-term care expenses. For those with disabilities, knowing these facts can help them strengthen their case to increase the chances of succeeding.