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How the Social Security Administration Defines “Disability”
For many people, the term disability is a physical and/or mental condition or conditions, which partially, completely, temporarily, or permanently impairs a person. For example, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) significantly, completely, and permanently restricted the late Stephen Hawking's speech and other physical functions, but ALS did not affect Dr. Hawking mentally or intellectually. An employee who falls at work, however, may heal just fine physically, but sustain long-term brain damage, leading to diminished intellectual capabilities.
For the Social Security Administration (SSA), the type of injury or illness you have – meaning, if you are affected physically, mentally, or in both ways – matters less than the effects of that injury or illness. This is because the SSA defines "disability" in work-related terms. In order to be found disabled by the SSA, you must:
- Be unable to do the same job you previously did
- Be unable to do a different job due to your specific medical condition(s)
- Have a condition that is expected to last for at least 12 months, and/or could result in your death
Although the Social Security Administration's definition for the term disability is specific, it recognizes a wide variety of medical conditions as disabilities in multiple categories:
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Speech and sensory impairments
- Respiratory disorders
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Digestive disorders
- Genitourinary disorders
- Blood (or hematological) disorders
- Skin disorders
- Endocrine disorders
- Congenital disorders affecting multiple bodily systems
- Neurological impairments
- Mental disorders
- Cancer-related disorders
- Immune system impairments
Each of these categories breaks down into multiple sub-categories, as well. You should know, though, that simply having one of these "Blue Book" disorders will not automatically qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits. For example, one of the qualifying disabilities is hearing loss. However, if your loved one is diagnosed as being deaf, he or she may still be able to work. As such, his or her disability would not be enough to be awarded benefits.Should I hire a Disability lawyer?
Yes, you should. While you can apply for benefits online, the chances are good that you could miss something important. If you make a mistake on your application, even if the mistake is a minor one, your benefits could be delayed or even denied outright. By working with a Social Security Disability attorney, you will be assured that everything on your application is correct, up-to-date, and filed by the appropriate deadlines.
Furthermore, you shouldn't worry about paying for an attorney, either. Maryland Disability lawyers work on contingency, which means you don't pay any fees or costs up front. Attorneys' fees are capped at 25% of your total backpay, or at $6,000 of your total backpay – whichever is less. If you are not awarded any back-pay, then your attorney is entitled to nothing.
So, if you are awarded $5000 in past-due benefits, then your attorney is only entitled to $1,250 in payment. He or she cannot take any additional money, either, from your future Disability checks from the SSA.