Social Security is a large, complex government program, and people understandably have a lot of questions when applying for disability benefits. Following are some frequently asked questions about Social Security Disability Insurance:

What kinds of evidence is Social Security looking for?

In order for your claim for disability benefits to be successful, it must include up-to-date evidence of a disabling mental or physical condition and how that condition prevents you from working. Essentially, Social Security is looking for evidence of functional limitations. This is why detailed medical records are so important in obtaining disability benefits.

For example, a detailed doctor’s note might say that a patient is unable to lift objects that weigh over 15 pounds, or that a patient is unable to reach overhead, or that a patient has hearing, vision or speech-language impairments. Claim examiners and Administrative Law Judges look for this kind of medical evidence to substantiate a person’s functional limitations.

Other evidence might include information from non-medical sources such as employers, caregivers, social workers and schools.

Is it a good idea to try returning to work before my claim has been decided?

If you feel that your condition improves after you file your SSDI claim or start receiving benefits, then you can try working again, but before doing that you should discuss the matter with your doctor and your attorney, as well as consider any other relevant issues in your personal life.

Social Security allows for a trial work period for people who receive disability benefits. With a trial work period, often called TWP, you don’t have to give up all of your SSDI benefits if you try working again but find that you are unable to continue. An unsuccessful work attempt could also help prove to Social Security the severity of your disability.

Why did Social Security deny my claim?

A common reason for SSDI claim denials is insufficient medical evidence. A person may be living with an injury or illness that would qualify for disability benefits, but the initial application did not contain sufficient proof of the impairment or how it limits the person’s ability to work.

A practical approach to ensuring that you have sufficient medical proof is to seek regular treatment for your medical condition and follow the doctor’s orders. Also, explain to your physician how your injury or illness has affected your ability to work.

Claims are also denied on a technical basis when an applicant’s monthly income is higher than the maximum income allowed for SSDI benefits. In order to receive these benefits, a person’s income must be lower than the monthly maximum, which is determined by Social Security each year.

If you believe your claim has been mistakenly denied, then you should appeal as soon as possible. There are deadlines, and the SSDI program already has a significant backlog.

What kinds of medical conditions qualify for SSDI benefits?

Social Security has a long list of medical conditions that are considered severe enough to qualify for disability benefits. The list of impairments includes but is not limited to:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic back pain
  • Heart disease
  • PTSD
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Burn injuries and other skin disorders
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Disorders of the spine
  • Blindness
  • Loss of speech
  • Hearing loss
  • Amputation
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Hematological disorders
  • Substance addiction disorders
  • Asthma
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Digestive disorders
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Immune system disorders
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Brain injuries
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
  • Spinal cord injuries

Why should I hire an attorney to handle my disability claim?

Because of the complexity of the SSDI program and its many evidentiary and procedural requirements, there is a significant risk of denial even if a person has a legitimate claim and needs the benefits. A disability law attorney who is familiar with the claims process and knows what Social Security is looking for can ensure that there are no mistakes in your application and that all of the necessary evidence is presented in a persuasive and effective manner.

Also, if your initial claim is denied, a disability law attorney can help you start the appeals process and represent you before an Administrative Law Judge. The likelihood of approval is significantly higher at the ALJ stage, when your lawyer can present evidence and make a strong case for approval.


To schedule a consultation about your SSDI claim, please contact our offices in Metairie by email or by calling 504-345-1232. We serve clients throughout Southern Louisiana.

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