How Does Social Security Decide Disability?

Jun 14, 2021


Welcome to Fountain of Hope's page on how Social Security decides disability! In this comprehensive guide, we will provide you with detailed insights into Social Security's evaluation process, the criteria used to determine disability claims, and important factors to consider during the application process.

Understanding Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are federal programs designed to provide financial assistance to individuals with disabilities. To qualify for these programs, claimants must meet specific medical and non-medical criteria set forth by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Evaluation Process

The evaluation process for Social Security disability claims is thorough and involves several steps to determine eligibility. It is important to understand the key elements considered during this process:

Medical Evidence

Medical evidence plays a crucial role in assessing disability claims. The SSA considers medical records, doctor's findings, diagnostic tests, and other relevant evidence to evaluate the severity and impact of the claimed impairments. It is essential to provide comprehensive medical documentation to support your claim.

Severity of Impairment

The SSA evaluates the severity of impairments by assessing the impact of the condition on an individual's ability to perform basic work-related activities such as walking, lifting, sitting, and concentrating. Impairments that significantly limit these abilities may increase the chances of being approved for disability benefits.

Listing of Impairments

The SSA maintains a "Listing of Impairments" that outlines medical conditions that automatically qualify as disabilities. If your impairment matches a listing's criteria, your claim may be approved without further evaluation. However, if your condition does not meet the specific listing requirements, further assessment will be necessary.

Residual Functional Capacity

The SSA evaluates an individual's residual functional capacity (RFC) to determine the level of work they can perform despite their impairments. RFC considers an individual's physical and mental abilities, limitations, and restrictions. The evaluation may involve consulting medical professionals and assessing the claimant's medical history and treatment records.

Vocational Factors

Vocational factors are also taken into consideration during the evaluation process. The SSA assesses an individual's age, education, work experience, and transferable skills to determine if they can perform any other type of gainful employment. These factors help establish whether the claimant is capable of adjusting to different work environments.

Important Factors to Consider

When applying for Social Security disability benefits, there are several important factors to consider:

Complete and Accurate Information

Provide the SSA with complete and accurate information about your medical conditions, treatments, and limitations. Be thorough in documenting your impairments and their impact on your daily life and work-related activities. Incomplete or inconsistent information can hinder your chances of approval.

Consistency with Treatment

Adherence to prescribed medical treatments and therapies is vital. Consistent medical treatment demonstrates your commitment to managing your condition and can strengthen your claim. It is important to regularly attend medical appointments, follow prescribed medications, and comply with recommended therapies.

Obtain Professional Support

Seeking support from medical professionals and experienced disability advocates can significantly improve your chances of a successful claim. Medical professionals can provide detailed reports and expert opinions regarding your conditions and limitations, while disability advocates can guide you through the application process, ensuring all necessary documentation is provided.

Appeals and Timelines

If your initial claim is denied, don't lose hope. The SSA provides an appeals process to challenge unfavorable decisions. It is crucial to adhere to the deadlines and requirements for filing appeals. Consult with a disability advocate or attorney who can help navigate the appeals process effectively.


In conclusion, understanding Social Security's evaluation process and the criteria used to determine disability is crucial when applying for benefits. By providing comprehensive and accurate medical evidence, demonstrating the severity of your impairments, and considering important factors during the application process, you can increase your chances of receiving the disability benefits you deserve.

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Helpful information 👍
Nov 8, 2023