Rochester Attorney Explains the Social Security Disability Claims Process

Guiding clients through the steps needed to apply for benefits

At Donald R. Bleier Attorney at Law, I work with you personally to develop and present your best case for Social Security Disability benefits. To determine whether you qualify for benefits, the state disability office of the Social Security Administration (SSA) follows a five-step process for adults and a three-step process for children. The process for adults consists of the following:

  • Step 1:  substantial gainful activity — The first step of the process looks at the work you have done. If your monthly earnings, or substantial gainful activity (SGA), average more than $1,040, you are usually not considered eligible by the SSA. If your income doesn't exceed this amount, you proceed to Step 2.
  • Step 2:  severity of the impairment To be considered disabled, your impairment must be severe. A severe impairment is one that limits what you are able to do in a significant way. If your disability does not limit you, then you are not considered disabled by the SSA and you receive a denial of benefits notice. If your condition is considered severe by the SSA, then you continue to Step 3.
  • Step 3:  listed conditions The SSA maintains a list of medical conditions that can automatically qualify you as disabled. However, even if your disability or combination of disabilities is not included on the list, you may still qualify. If your impairment or combination of impairments equals a condition on the list, then you are considered disabled and eligible for benefits. If your condition is not equal to a listed condition, you proceed to Step 4.
  • Step 4:  residual functional capacity This step actually comprises two steps. First, your residual functional capacity (RFC), or what you are able to do despite your impairment, is determined. Once RFC is calculated, the SSA determines if you are able to do the work you did previously. If you are, you are not considered disabled. If you are unable to do the work you used to do, then you proceed to Step 5.
  • Step 5: alternate employment opportunities At Step 5, the SSA determines whether there are other jobs that you are able to perform and whether they exist in sufficient number in your region. In making this determination, the administration considers not only your disability but also your age, experience, education and training.

What typically delays the process?

There is no single reason for delay. As a disability lawyer, I've come to see the time it takes to obtain evidence of your disability as one of the most common reasons for a delay. That evidence, which must be gathered and analyzed, includes:

  • Interviews with those familiar with your disability
  • Independent medical evaluations
  • Consultative medical examinations
  • Obtaining medical, educational and vocational records

Your type of disability can also influence the duration of the process. If your condition is a listed one, the process typically moves more quickly. If you must prove that your impairment or combination of impairments is equivalent, then multiple SSDI appeals are not uncommon.

How long does the entire process take?

Unfortunately, there is no single timeline for how long a claim can take. I tell my clients that they can expect the process to take a minimum of six months. But depending upon your disability, the facts of your case and how many appeals are filed, the claims process can take two years or more.

Put my experience to work for you

At Donald R. Bleier Attorney at Law, I work with my fellow Rochester residents personally to help them file for SSDI benefits. My office is located just blocks from the downtown Social Security office and I provide parking next to the building. To schedule your free phone consultation, please call my office at 585.563.9054 or contact me online.