If you suffer from a physical or mental impairment that keeps you from working, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits in Ohio. Regardless of whether you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, your eligibility will depend on whether your condition meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of a “disability.” You will also need to meet all other non-medical requirements.
Here, we discuss what qualifies as a disability. If you would like to discuss your specific medical condition and whether you may be entitled to Social Security disability benefits, please contact our experienced and dedicated Ohio disability lawyers at Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill, Co., LPA. Since 1985, we have protected the rights of the disabled throughout northeastern Ohio’s Mahoning Valley. We can provide a free and confidential consultation through our offices located in Youngstown, Warren, Salem, Ravenna or Akron.
How Does the Social Security Administration Define a Disability?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) awards benefits to only those who suffer from a total disability. What does this mean? According to the SSA, it means that an individual must:
- Be unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity
- Due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment
- Which can be expected to result in death, or
- Which has lasted or can be expected to last for at least 12 continuous months.
Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is simply the measurement that the SSA uses to assess the amount of work which you can perform. In other words, you can work and earn some amount of income each month. As long as your income does not pass the SGA threshold, then you may still be eligible for disability benefits. In 2020, the SGA threshold is:
- $1,260 for non-blind individuals
- $2,110 for statutorily blind individuals.
Under SSA guidelines, you are considered to be statutorily blind if your vision is no greater than 20/200 in your better eye, or if your visual field is 20 degrees or less in your better eye.
How Does the SSA Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability?
When you file your application for disability benefits in Ohio, your local SSA field office will initially process it. Then, the SSA will forward your application to Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities’ Division of Disability Determination (DDD). A DDD claims examiner and a medical consultant will review your case to determine if you suffer from a condition that meets the SSA’s definition of a disability. To make this determination, the SSA will go through a five-step sequential evaluation process. Those five steps are:
1. Are you engaged in substantial gainful activity?
As we discussed above, you may still qualify for benefits even if you work and earn income each month. However, if your income exceeds the SGA threshold, you cannot be deemed to be disabled. As a result, your claim will be denied.
2. Do you have a severe, medically determinable impairment?
At this step, DDD will determine whether your physical or mental impairment interferes with basic work-related activities. For instance, can you lift, carry, stand, walk, sit, push, pull or engage in certain non-exertional activities? Can you understand and execute simple instructions, communicate with supervisors and co-workers and handle changes in your work setting? DDD also will determine whether your condition is expected to result in death, or if it has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months. This is commonly called the duration requirement. To be “medically determinable,” your condition must be one which can be shown through medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.
3. Does your medical condition meet or equal the severity of a listed impairment?
The SSA keeps a list of physical and mental impairments that are so severe that a person is considered to be disabled if he or she suffers from one of those conditions. They are broken into 14 categories and listed in what the SSA calls its Blue Book. Those categories are:
- Musculoskeletal System
- Special Senses and Speech
- Respiratory Disorders
- Cardiovascular System
- Digestive System
- Genitourinary Disorders
- Hematological Disorders
- Skin Disorders
- Endocrine Disorders
- Congenital Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems
- Neurological Disorders
- Mental Disorders
- Cancer (Malignant Neoplastic Diseases)
- Immune System Disorders.
Even if your condition is not listed in the Blue Book, you can still establish that you are disabled if you can provide medical evidence which shows that your condition is equal in severity to a listed condition.
4. Can you go back to your previous work?
If you cannot show that your condition matches or is equal in severity to a condition listed in the Blue Book, DDD will conduct a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. The first step in that assessment will be to determine whether you can return to the work you previously did despite your physical or mental impairment. If you can, then you will not meet the SSA’s definition of a disability. However, if you cannot, DDD will move on to the final step in the evaluation process.
5. Can you do any other type of work?
To determine whether you can do any other type of work, DDD will look at your impairment as well as you age, education, training and work history as well as whether you have any transferrable job skills. If you cannot do any other type of work, then your condition will meet the definition of a disability. If you have met all other requirements, then you should be eligible for benefits.
Can a Lawyer Help with Your Ohio Disability Benefits Claim?
Our team at Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill, Co., LPA, can help you to compile all medical and non-medical information that you will need to apply for Social Security disability benefits. In particular, we can work with your treating physician and ensure that the doctor provides DDD with the information it will need to determine whether you have a disability. When you are ready, we can help you to go forward with submitting your application. If your claim is denied, we will help you to appeal the decision, starting with a request for reconsideration of your claim by DDD. Throughout your case, you can count on us to keep you informed and do our best to make the application and/or appeals process as stress-free as possible for you.
Get Help from Our Ohio Social Security Disability Lawyers Today
If you believe that you qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits, and you need help with your application or appeal, contact our experienced Ohio disability lawyers at Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill, Co., LPA, without delay. We can provide a free consultation and start work on your case right away. Call or reach us online today to get started.
Robert L. Heller has practiced law in Ohio for nearly 40 years, devoting his entire career to helping disabled people in the Mahoning Valley to pursue needed benefits. A native of Warren, Ohio, Robert earned his undergraduate degree from Miami University of Ohio and his law degree from the University of Toledo College of Law. He also studied public administration at American University in Washington, D.C. He is admitted to practice in Ohio state courts, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals as well as a member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives (NOSSCR).