It can be devastating to become disabled after a serious injury or illness. It can forever alter your life, personally and professionally. Once disabled, a person may no longer be able to perform the job they held before, and, in the case of very serious disabilities, will potentially never be able to work again. Without being able to earn a living, and with the potential of long-term medical costs, the disabled person and her/his family may begin to struggle financially. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits (SSDI & SSI) to help disabled people ameliorate the financial hardship caused by their disability. However, obtaining Social Security disability benefits is not a simple process. The skilled Providence Social Security Disability lawyers at Marasco & Nesselbush, Rhode Island's premier Social Security Disability law firm, are committed to helping people through the SSD application process to ensure that they receive the benefits they need and deserve.
SSA Definition of Disability
The legal definition of Social Security disability is the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity, by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, that has lasted a year, is expected to last a year, or is expected to result in death.
In general, to qualify for SSD benefits in Rhode Island, a person must be totally disabled from all types of work. There is also the durational requirement of one year, i.e., a person must be disabled and out of work for one year, or be expected to be out of work for a year. Lastly, a person will qualify for Social Security disability if he or she is out of work and the disability is expected to result in death. This is often the case with terminal cancer or AIDS or other serious illnesses.
The SSA defines disability differently than other programs, like Workers' Compensation or Short and Long term Disability programs. Typically, only people with a "total disability" qualify for SSD benefits. Social Security considers people to be disabled if:
- They cannot perform the work they did before;
- The SSA determines that they cannot adjust and perform other work; AND
- The disability is expected to last at least one year or result in death.
The one year durational requirement is strict, as the SSA assumes that temporarily disabled people have access to other compensation such as "Temporary Disability Insurance," Workers' Compensation, investments and/or savings.
How the SSA Determines if You Are Disabled
The Social Security Administration uses a 5 step process to decide whether you are "disabled" or not. The steps are as follows:
- Step 1: Are you working? If you are working, you cannot receive Social Security disability benefits no matter how ill or limited you are.
- Step 2: Do you have a severe impairment? This step filters out really weak cases; you must have a significant or severe illness.
- Step 3: Does your condition "meet" or "equal" a Social Security Listing. Social Security has developed "Listings" or definitions and severity requirements for each body system.
- Step 4: Given your illness(es) and limitations, can you return to your past work? If you can, you are not disabled.
- Step 5: Given your illness(es) and limitations, can you perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the regional and/or national economy. If you can, you are not disabled.
SSA has categorized each body system, and any condition can be disabling:
- Musculoskeletal impairments: including disorders of the spine, amputation, soft tissue injury, fracture, joint dysfunction, or reconstructive surgery or surgical arthrodesis or a weight-bearing joint;
- Sense and speech impairments: including loss of visual acuity, loss of visual efficiency, loss of speech, and loss of hearing;
- Respiratory impairments: including chronic pulmonary insufficiency, asthma, cystic fibrosis, pneumoconiosis, bronchiectasis, persistent infections of the lung, sleep-relating breathing disorders, and lung transplant;
- Cardiovascular system impairments: including chronic heart failure, heart transplant, ischemic heart disease, recurrent arrhythmias, and aneurysm of aorta or major branches;
- Digestive System Impairments: including chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, inflammatory bowel disease and other digestive conditions;
- Genitourinary Impairments: including most renal disease and disorders, some of which can require dialysis or kidney transplantation;
- Hematological Disorders: including chronic anemia, sickle cell disease, thrombocytopenia and many other blood conditions or diseases;
- Skin Disorders: including Ichthyosis, bullous disease, dermatitis, severe burns and other skin disorders, like scleroderma;
- Endocrine Disorders: including thyroid disorders, diabetes mellitus,and others;
- Neurological Impairments: including epilepsy, vascular accidents, brain tumors, Parkinson's Disease, Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Cord injuries, Multiple Sclerosis and others;
- Mental Disorders: including Anxiety, Depression, Bi-Polar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Paranoia, Mental Retardation, Somatoform Disorder, Personality Disorders, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, and Substance Abuse;
- Malignant/ Neoplastic Disorders (Cancers): any form of cancer can be disabling depending on the severity and treatment required;
- Immune System Disorders: including Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Scleroderma, HIV and AIDS, Lyme Disease, Inflammatory Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and others.
Any condition can be disabling depending on the severity of your symptoms, the difficulty of treatment, and/or the way it impairs your ability to work.
Getting the Benefits You Need and Deserve
At Marasco & Nesselbush, our trusted Rhode Island Social Security Disability lawyers have a thorough understanding of the Social Security Disability Application process, the Listing of Impairments, and the Appeals processes. We will make sure that you provide all the necessary documentation to complete your application so that you have the best chance of winning your case. We understand how important it is to receive disability benefits, and we are devoted to doing everything in our power to make sure you receive the benefits you need and deserve. Our clients are our top priority. If you are planning to apply for Social Security Disability benefits, if you need to appeal a denial, or if you have general questions, we are available at (401) 274-7400.