In this chapter, we discuss the assessment of medical severity, a key factor in determining eligibility for disability benefits. Here, we outline the broad spectrum of impairments, from serious medical conditions to seemingly less severe issues like high blood pressure, that can warrant approval.
The second step in the five-step sequential evaluation process is focused on assessing the medical severity of the claimant’s impairments. In order for you to be considered disabled under Social Security Disability laws, you must demonstrate, through medical evidence, the presence of a severe impairment, whether mental or physical.
The definition of a severe impairment is broad, encompassing any condition that significantly impacts your ability to perform work activities. The Social Security Administration examines each impairment, determining its severity and evaluating how it affects your capacity to engage in work-related activities. Cases where claimants present multiple impairments, both mental and physical, often stand out as strong candidates for approval.
Common impairments leading to Social Security disability approval include serious conditions like cancer, orthopedic issues such as back problems, or mental health disorders like schizophrenia. Surprisingly, even conditions like high blood pressure or obesity can be deemed severe if they cause limitations in daily living or work difficulties. However, for less straightforward impairments, there must be medical support demonstrating that the symptoms significantly impact the claimant’s daily life and create limitations or difficulties at work.
A critical aspect of determining the severity of impairments is the duration. The impairment must be severe for at least one year or be expected to persist for a full year. This requirement can pose challenges, particularly in cases where a medical condition improves or resolves before the one-year mark. Orthopedic problems, for instance, may see improvement after surgery, rendering the impairment non-severe for Social Security Disability purposes.
The duration requirement becomes a hurdle for many where medical treatment records only cover a shorter period, typically seven to eight months. The Social Security Administration may question whether the condition genuinely made the individual unable to work for a full year.
This time-based criterion makes early approval challenging. If you have only been out of work for a few months, the Social Security Administration may doubt your inability to return to work before a year has passed. To address this, practitioners often engage in early case strategies, such as contacting treating doctors to determine their prognosis regarding the duration of the impairment’s impact on the claimant’s ability to work.
Understanding the details of establishing the medical severity of impairments, considering both their nature and duration, is absolutely crucial when navigating the Social Security Disability evaluation process. If you have further questions or concerns related to this aspect of the process, I highly advise consulting with an experienced attorney.
For more information on Step Two Of The Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (833) 444-4127 today.