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Functional impairment is the bottom line in disability law

Readers of this blog might be aware that diabetes is included in the Social Security Administration’s list of impairments. 

However, the SSA’s website provides additional guidelines for eligibility on the basis of diabetes, such as significantly disorganized motor function of two extremities, periodic acidosis, diabetic retinopathy or other visual impairments, and any other examples of how the condition is affecting an individual’s daily functioning and ability to perform work.

Work functioning is ultimately the bottom line in applying for Social Security disability insurance benefits. Generally speaking, SSDI benefits require that an injury, illness or other condition prevent an individual from working for at least one full year. Terminal impairments also satisfy that requirement, and may even be afforded expedited treatment under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance program.

Yet providing evidence that convinces SSA disability examiners of an individual’s inability to work can be a difficult process, judging by the high percentage of SSDI applications that are initially denied. The process of applying for benefits can be complex and confusing. To add to an applicant’s frustration, the SSA may not be in the best position to provide requested information. There may be good reasons why a disabled individual can't get straight answers, such as the SSA's own limited resources and inability to provide legal counsel.

For all of those reasons, a disabled worker who has questions about whether he or she might qualify for SSDI benefits should consult with a disability benefits attorney. An attorney with experience in disability law may have insight into the type of evidence that disability examiners will be looking for, as well as particular strategies associated with particular conditions.

Source: The New York Times, “Poorer Health of Surgery Patients on Medicaid May Alter Law’s Bottom Line,” Robert Pear, May 17, 2014

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