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SSDI and the Combined Effect of Multiple Disabilities

Lloyd King Law Firm PLLC  Oct. 12, 2023

Hands encircling paper cut out of person in wheelchairThe Social Security Administration (SSA) not only provides retirement benefits for those who pay into the system, but it also offers what is known as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a program that pays qualified individuals benefits when a physical or mental condition, or a combination, prevents them from working full-time.  

To qualify, an applicant must be viewed as “insured” by the SSA, meaning that they have accumulated what are called “work credits” by paying taxes into the Social Security system, either through work or through self-employment payments. An applicant must also meet the SSA’s definition of a disability, and their disability must be medically proven and shown to last for at least 12 months or until death. 

Someone may develop just one impairment that makes it difficult to continue in their established line of work or profession, but there also might be a combination of impairments or conditions that add up to a disability.  

Qualifying for SSDI, however, is not always easy. In fact, up to 60 percent of all new claimants are rejected. Many applicants will then have to seek a reconsideration and if that doesn’t work, then set up a hearing with a Social Security Disability Judge. After that, there is an Appeals Council that you can request to review the judge’s ruling. 

If you are applying for SSDI, or have had your application denied, in or around Raleigh, North Carolina, contact Lloyd King Law Firm PLLC. I am a former Social Security Disability Judge, and I can help you assemble the necessary medical evidence for your initial application or for an appeal and then guide you as you navigate the process. I also proudly serve clients in Roanoke Rapids, Fayetteville, and Greensboro. 

Understanding SSDI Eligibility

The two main requirements for establishing SSDI eligibility involve your qualifying through work credits, and proving that your impairment or condition meets the definition used by the SSA. Work credits are based on your total yearly income or your self-employment income. In 2023, you earn a work credit for every $1,640 earned (the amount can change every year). You can earn four work credits in a year. 

To qualify for SSDI, the number of work credits needed depends on your age, but generally speaking, you must have accumulated 40 work credits, 20 of which were earned in the 10 years leading up to your disability. 

As for what constitutes a disability, the SSA sets these standards: 

  • You cannot do work and engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of your medical condition. 

  • You cannot do work you did previously or adjust to other work because of your medical condition. 

  • Your condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death. 

It’s vital to reach out to a Social Security Disability Insurance attorney for help at any stage of the process. 

Gathering Medical Evidence to Support Your Claim

Note that your disability must be total. SSDI does not provide benefits for partial or short-term disabling conditions. The SSA also uses what is called its “Blue Book” to see if your impairment or impairments qualify. The “Blue Book” lists qualifying impairments. 

In showing that your condition qualifies, the SSA requires that you prove you have a physical or mental impairment, or combination, through medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. A statement about your symptoms—a note from your doctor, in other words—will not likely be considered sufficient. 

You will most likely need clinical and laboratory diagnostic evidence to support your claim. This can include test results, MRIs, X-rays, results of a physical exam, as well as statements by attending physicians and others who are treating you. 

What If There Are Multiple Impairments?

Many people who apply for SSDI have multiple impairments or disabilities. The SSA uses a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine a claimant’s eligibility for benefits. Two of the steps are used to determine if you meet the disability definition that prevents you from working full-time. The first step is to determine if one or more of your impairments is listed in the agency’s “Blue Book.” The second step is to determine your “residual functional capacity,” or RFC. 

Residual functional capacity is determined from the medical evidence you submit. However, in some cases, you may be required to undergo a consultative examination (CE), which may be conducted by a physician or professional that the SSA chooses, though your own medical source is “the preferred source for the CE.” Your RFC is stated in terms of the amount of exertion you are capable of doing, ranging from “sedentary work” to “very heavy work.” 

Applying for SSDI

You can apply online, call the 800 number listed online, or visit your local Social Security Office. Generally, your application will be handled by a federally funded state agency called Disability Determination Services (DDS). The DDS examiners will first check if you qualify under the work credits requirement and then begin examining the medical evidence submitted. 

Many applicants fail in their initial claim due to not supplying sufficient medically determinable proof. If you are in or around Raleigh, contact me and let me guide you in obtaining and assembling a complete and convincing enough package to submit to increase your chances of success. 

The Importance of Skilled Legal Representation

Not only should you seek out help in navigating the application process, but you’ll need help if an appeal is involved. Your first step is to ask for a reconsideration by another DDS examiner, who has never seen your file before. If that results in the same rejection, then you can ask for a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). 

ALJ was the role I played in the SSDI process, so I have first-hand knowledge of how these hearings operate and how best to make your case for approval. I'm proud to offer knowledgeable guidance through every step of the process, from application to any reconsiderations or appeals. For all your SSDI questions, concerns, and issues, contact Lloyd King Law Firm PLLC.