Despite all the stories out there about how easy it is to get Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income [“SSI”], it’s harder than you think to get these federal benefits, probably necessitating a Knoxville disability lawyer. If you have been working regularly for at least five years and paying your FICA contributions, you will likely be fully insured and eligible for such benefits. The Social Security Administration, which handles these types of disability claims, has set forth a five step analysis to decide who will get disability and who won’t:

1. Are You Working? If you are currently working regularly at a job, you are not eligible for disability benefits. So the first thing to look for is whether you are not working due to a physical or mental condition. If you are trying to work through your condition and failing, then you are considered to be making an unsuccessful work attempt, which will not be counted against you. You must prove this element of the claim.

2. Do You Have a Serious Impairment? To get disability, you must have a physical and/or mental impairment. The impairment must be “serious.” Social Security usually will give you the benefit of the doubt here. Nevertheless, you must prove your serious impairment, usually through your medical records.

3. Does the Impairment Meet or Equal a Listed Impairment? The Social Security regulations specify various physical and mental impairments, and how seriously the impairment must affect you. If your condition meets or equals these “listed impairments,” then you are awarded disability. While you have the burden of proving this element, Social Security almost never finds that a claimant’s condition meets or equals a listed impairment, regardless of your evidence.

4. Can You Return to Your Past Relevant Work? Assuming your serious impairment, your evidence must show that you are incapable of returning to the past types of work that you have done. If Social Security says that you can, then you are denied disability. If you are unable to return to your past relevant work, then the burden of proof shifts to Social Security to prove:

5. There Are Other Occupations in the National Economy, in Sufficient Numbers, That You Can Work Despite Your Impairment. Social Security will prove this element by taking testimony from a vocational expert. That person will use a book called the Dictionary of Occupational Titles [DOT], which spells out all the different kinds of occupations, and in what numbers such occupations exist in the United States.

For instance, if the DOT says that, based on your age, education, training and past work experience, you could work as a ticket-taker, or a bottom scrubber [whatever that is], or any number of other arcane jobs, then Social Security has met its burden of proof and your claim will likely be denied.

The process of a Social Security Knoxville or SSI claim usually is confusing and lengthy. Once you file your claim with your Knoxville or East Tennessee Social Security office, you will probably be denied. Don’t lose heart, though, because most people are denied on their first application.

After that first denial, you must request reconsideration within 60 days. Again you probably will be denied at this level. At this point, you must request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. Here is where you have your best chance of getting approved, and when you most need a lawyer. If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Knoxville or SSI benefits, feel free to call either Glen Rutherford or Doug Weinstein to discuss your claim in more detail.

If you or someone you love is unable to perform any work whatsoever, and is having problems obtaining Social Security Disability benefits, you can fill out the email form above, or call our law firm at the phone number above for a free consultation.