Adult Disability


Attorneys for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Adults With Disabilities in Columbus, Ohio

The Social Security Administration administers two disability benefits programs for adults: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI, which is also sometimes referred to as DIB or Title 2 benefits, is similar to SSI, or Title 16 benefits, in that both offer regularly-paid cash benefits to people who meet the standards the federal government sets.

For the purposes of SSDI and SSI, “disability” is a legal term rather than a medical diagnosis. Only the Social Security Administration, not a doctor or SSDI/SSI attorney, can determine whether a person meets its standard for being considered disabled.

The 5-Step Evaluation of an Adult’s Claim for SSDI or SSI Benefits

To decide whether a person is disabled and qualified to receive federal disability benefits, Social Security asks the following five questions in the order they are presented. Note that the same criteria are used regardless of where a person lives and are not specific to applications sent by individuals living in or near Columbus, Ohio.

  1. Is the Person Who Applied for Federal Disability Benefits Earning Less Than “Substantial Gainful Activity”?
    Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is a threshold for monthly earnings. A person whose current monthly income exceeds the SGA at the time they apply for SSDI or SSI benefits will be denied federal disability payments. For 2020, the SGA was $1,260 for most applicants and $2,110 for blind individuals. Applications from people with an SGA below the applicable threshold proceed to step 2.
  1. Does the Applicant Have a Medically Determinable Severe Impairment?
    There are two elements to this inquiry. The Social Security Administration will determine whether the applicant’s “medical impairment” (what the program calls a diagnosis) is “medically determinable” from medical or mental health records submitted with the application.A medical impairment is judged to be severe if medical evidence establishes that the symptoms of the impairment interfere with performing basic work-related activities. SSDI and SSI applications from individuals without medically determinable severe impairments will be denied. Applicants who document at least one medically determinable severe impairment have their application proceed to step 3.
  1. Does the Documented Impairment Meet or Equal Criteria Appearing in the Listings of Impairment?
    The Listings of Impairment for adults, which is online here, is a compendium of criteria for determining whether a given disability impairs a person’s ability to work. If an applicants’ documented symptoms meet or equal the ones that are listed, the person is found to be disabled for the purposes of qualifying to receive SSDI or SSI benefits.When an impairment is found not to meet or equal the criteria in the Listings, the applicant’s claim proceeds to step 4. Before that, however, the Social Security Administration formulates the applicant’s residual functional capacity, or RFC.

Residual Functional Capacity

A person’s RFC is determined by conducting a function-by-function assessment of their maximum ability to perform work-related physical and mental activities on a sustained, regular and continuing basis (i.e., 8 hours a day for 5 days a week) despite the limitations and restrictions resulting from medically determinable impairments. In short, the RFC is the determination of what an SSDI or SSI applicant can do at work on a full-time basis.

  1. Given the Applicant’s RFC, Can They Resume Performing Work They Have Done in the Past?
    The Social Security Administration compares an applicant’s RFC to the requirements of any work the person performed at the SGA level during the 15 years prior to applying for federal disability benefits. This is called the person’s past relevant work (PRW).If it is determined that the applicant can resume their PRW as they previously performed it or as it is generally performed in the national economy, the person’s claim will be denied. If, on the other hand, it is determined that the applicant’s RFC precludes them from resuming their PRW, the claim proceeds to step 5.
  1. Given the Applicant’s RFC, Can They Perform Any Other Work Available in the National Economy on a Full-Time Basis?
    At this step, the Social Security Administration compares an applicant’s RFC to all available jobs across the United States in order to determine whether the person can do any full-time work. While doing that, the program also takes the applicant’s age, education level and work experience into account to determine if performing a particular job is realistic for the applicant in question.Only after it is determined that an applicant’s RFC precludes them from performing any work in the national economy will the person will be approved to receive federal disability benefits.

Other Considerations


Different rules apply to some individuals who are over the ages of 50 and 55. Without diving too deeply into the details, it can be easier for older people who have not reached retirement age to qualify to receive federal disability benefits. This is not always the case, however. An SSDI or SSI applicant who is between the ages of 50 and 62 should speak with a Social Security disability attorney to learn more about how their age could affect their likelihood for being determined disabled.

Duration of Medical Impairment

As a general rule, symptoms of a disabling condition must have persisted (or be expected to persist) at least 12 months or be likely to cause death in order to qualify a person for SSDI or SSI benefits. If, for instance, a medical impairment keeps a person out of work for 9 months and then improves enough to permit the person to resume working, the affected individual would not be approved to receive federal disability payments.

That explained, there is no requirement for a person with a medical impairment to wait 12 months before applying for SSDI or SSI benefits. An individual can apply as soon as their earnings dropped below the applicable SGA threshold.

How SSDI Differs From SSI

The “medical” requirements outlined above are used to determine whether a person qualifies to receive SSDI or SSI benefits. The Social Security Administration uses different “nonmedical” criteria for determining SSDI and SSI eligibility.

A ‘Credits’ Test for SSDI

To be eligible for SSDI from a nonmedical perspective, an adult must have worked long enough to be “currently” and “fully” insured under Social Security. Individuals become insured by paying taxes to fund Social Security retirement benefits. The taxes, which the majority of people have automatically withheld from each pay check, earn credits that accumulate over time. A person who becomes unable to work before reaching retirement age can qualify for SSDI benefits if they have accumulated enough credits.

Importantly, the number of credits required to qualify for federal disability payments varies by age. In practical terms, this means that younger adults can accumulate enough credits to qualify for SSDI even if they have not worked very long.

Further, in certain, relatively rare circumstances, an adult may be able to qualify for SSDI benefits because one of their parents or their spouse has accumulated enough Social Security credits. The Social Security Administration will conduct an inquiry to determine whether an applicant qualifies for benefits on their own account or on the account of a relative.

An Income Test for SSI

To be eligible for SSI, a person must have limited income and few financial resources. Because of this, it is possible for an individual who has never worked or who has worked only rarely to qualify for SSI benefits but not SSDI benefits. Parents of disabled adult children should consult with an attorney who specializes in Social Security disability cases if they have questions about such a circumstance.

Understanding How Federal Disability Payments Work

SSDI benefits are paid monthly at a rate that is based on the recipient’s history of earnings from work. During 2020, the most an SSDI recipient could receive was $3,011 per month. More typically, people receive between $800 and $1,800, with the average monthly payment being $1,258.

SSI payments arrive 12 times a year, and the base benefit is the same for everyone. The base SSI benefit for 2020 was $783 per payment.

It is not uncommon for an adult to qualify for both SSDI and SSI benefits. However, payments will be adjusted so that no person receives more than the maximum amount of the most available through SSDI and the most available through SSI.

How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

If you believe you have a medical impairment that prevents you from performing full-time work, you may file an application for SSDI or SSI benefits with your local Social Security office, which you can find by clicking on this link. You may also file your application online or start the process over the phone.

As Columbus-based Social Security disability attorneys, we are available to answer questions. We do, however, encourage Ohio residents to prepare and submit their initial SSDI and SSI applications on their own. We are best prepared to assist with SSDI denials and appeals of rejections for SSI benefits.

To schedule a free consultation with an SSDI/SSI attorney in Columbus, Ohio, call Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman at (614) 221-3318. We also take appointments online.

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Worker’s Comp Lawyers Columbus, Ohio - Agee Clymer

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