Expertly Reviewed By: Serah Waweru, Esq., on April 11, 2023
Did you know that the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies at least 65 percent of initial applications for disability benefits? While approval is not guaranteed, you can improve your chances by knowing and understanding the signs that you will be approved for disability benefits. Here are 11 signs to watch out for.
1. You Provided Sufficient Medical Documentation and Evidence
For faster processing of your application, ensure you include copies or photocopies of documents from healthcare providers and hospitals that support your disability claim. The SSA needs detailed information about your medical treatment. They will then use this information to verify if your illness or condition is so severe that it stops or limits you from working.
The medical records you need may include the following:
Medical history documents, such as information about your allergies, family medical history, health habits, illnesses, immunizations, medications taken, past surgical history, and so on.
Reports about prescribed medications: If you don’t have prescribed medications, there’s a possibility the SSA will deny your disability claim.
Treatment plan description and reports: You can get these by filling out a request form and sending it to your primary care doctor.
Medical diagnostic test reports: Talk to the health care provider who ordered the tests and request a copy of the test results.
Reports on your imaging tests, including but not limited to X-rays and CT scans.
If you don’t have a copy of these medical documents with you, the SSA might request them directly from the medical sources you listed. They might also ask you to undergo a special examination at their expense if you didn’t receive any medical treatment or if they didn’t get sufficient medical evidence about your condition(s).
2. Your Medical Records Are Accurate and Consistent
The consistency of your medical records helps the SSA determine if your injury, illness, or condition will be long-term and severe enough to affect your ability to work. It also boils down to credibility.
This is one of the most common signs that you will be approved for disability.
Imagine that you’re experiencing severe fatigue.
However, your medical records don’t mention this. Or, in some instances, your healthcare providers might have written something like, “Patient X is able to walk from his bed to the bathroom unassisted” or “Patient X is able to do light exercises for 15 minutes.”
The accuracy of your medical records is also important.
So, what makes an accurate and complete medical record?
Every medical note should be appropriately dated and signed, even if it’s in electronic format. In addition, it should contain enough information to accomplish the following:
- Identify the patient.
- Justify the treatments and services.
- Properly document patient management (e.g., treatments and outcomes of care).
- Promotion of continuity of care among healthcare providers.
- Support patient diagnosis.
3. You Follow The Recommended Treatment Plan
This isn’t just about your prescribed medications. The Social Security Administration will also check if you’ve undergone the recommended surgeries or complied with other treatment orders for your condition. If you fail to comply, they can deny your application for disability benefits.
Why do you need to take treatment compliance seriously?
For one, it strengthens your claim. The SSA gives benefits to disability claimants if they see that their condition isn’t going to get better despite following their healthcare provider’s treatment recommendations.
Non-compliance will make it difficult for the SSA to assess if your doctor’s treatment plan is effective enough to help you get back to work. Unless you have a good and truthful excuse for not following a doctor’s orders, the agency will most likely reject your application.
But it’s also interesting to note that the medications and medical procedures doctors recommend should be able to restore a patient’s ability to engage in full-time work. That’s why the SSA might not outright reject your disability claim if you slightly deviate from your prescribed treatment plan.
4. Your Employment History Information Matters
The Social Security Administration will review your work history to determine what skills you needed to effectively perform your duties at work. This gives them a good insight into your mental and physical capabilities before you became disabled.
How far back does the agency check your employment history?
The agency will review the jobs you’ve held so far in the last 15 years before your disability benefit application. Therefore, you’ll need to write down a detailed list of the jobs you’ve had within that time frame, including your responsibilities, workplace training programs, and the equipment you’ve operated (if applicable).
Don’t worry if you have difficulty remembering all of the jobs you’ve had for the last 15 years. The SSA keeps a record of your employment history. You can request this information from them by filling out Form SSA-7050 | Request for Social Security Earnings Information. You can download the form from their website or request it in person at your nearest SSA office.
⚖️ PRO TIP: The SSA might take 120 days (roughly 4 months) to process your request.
5. Your Age Also Matters
Disability doesn’t only affect older people, especially adults aged 65 and older. Although the percentage is much smaller, children and youth can become disabled due to a disease or an injury. For this reason, the Social Security Administration doesn’t impose an age limit for disability benefit applications.
That said, individuals aged 65 and older may have a better chance of claiming disability benefits. But, keep in mind that the SSA has specific rules for this age group of applicants.
For example, the SSA typically evaluates older individuals’ medical histories to determine if they have any age-related medical conditions. Any age-related disease that stops a person from working for at least 12 months will likely be considered a disability by the SSA.
6. You Achieved an Adequate Number of Work Credits
An adequate number of work credits achieved is also one of the key signs that you will be approved for disability.
The Social Security Administration uses credits to determine if you’ve worked long enough to become eligible for any type of Social Security benefit. Not having enough work credit is often the most common reason the SSA rejects applications for disability benefits.
If you stop working before earning the required credits, your credits will remain on your record. You can only continue earning credits when you return to work later.
So, what’s the exact number of credits you need to reach to get disability benefits?
It depends on your age at the time your disability started. In most cases, you need at least 40 credits. Out of those 40 credits, 20 should come from working in the past 10 years and up to the year you became disabled.
Younger workers can still qualify even if they have fewer credits. The catch is they have to earn six credits in the last three years, ending with the year their disability begins. Also, they’ll only qualify for benefits if they accomplish this before age 24.
It’s important to take note that certain Social Security disability programs don’t require people to meet a specific amount of work credits. Take the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program as an example. But if you’re applying for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, you need enough work credits to be eligible.
⚖️ PRO TIP: You can view this information on your social security statement if you don’t know how many work credits you currently have. Please note that only people who are at least 25 years old can access this information.
7. You Have Proof of Inability to Work
You need to prove to the Social Security Administration that you could not work for 12 months or longer. For this purpose, your employer must submit the necessary documents showing that you have missed work since your disability started. You must also provide copies of your bank statements and pay stubs to support your employer’s documents.
The SSA doesn’t usually contact employers if claimants submit an accurate and comprehensive application form and supporting documents. But suppose they can’t establish a clear connection between your inability to work and your disability. In that case, they might interview your employer to ask for clarifications and/or additional information (i.e., what you usually do at work and tasks you can no longer perform due to your disability).
Aside from being unable to work for at least 12 months, you shouldn’t own assets worth $2,000 or more. Likewise, if you’re married, the value of your assets shouldn’t be worth $3,000 or more.
8. Your Medical Condition is In The SSA Blue Book
If you want to know if you’re eligible for disability benefits, check the Blue Book listings. The Social Security Administration uses the Blue Book, officially titled the Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, to determine if a person’s condition is severe enough to qualify for disability benefits.
If your condition is listed in that book, then that’s one of the many signs that you will be approved for disability.
⚖️ PRO TIP: The Blue Book is regularly updated online. But if you prefer, you can get a physical copy.
The Blue Book is thorough in explaining the requirements of the SSA. However, it can be difficult for most people to understand because it’s too technical. Discussing your specific condition with a disability lawyer or SSA representative could help you with your claim.
The Blue Book impairment lists are grouped by human body systems. For instance, asthma and lung infections belong to the “Respiratory Disorders” group. High blood pressure and blood clots are under the “Cardiovascular System” group. Blood issues, such as anemia and sickle cell disease, are under the “Hematological Disorders” group.
9. You Meet All the SGA Requirements
The meaning of the term “disability” under the rules of the Social Security Administration is different than other programs. For the SSA, a disability means you cannot work or perform “substantial gainful activity” due to your medical problem. Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) refers to an income level you can earn and still qualify for disability benefits.
The Substantial Gainful Activity measurement system varies greatly for every disability and year. For example, in 2023, the SGA for people with disabilities other than blindness is $1,470 every month. The monthly SGA for people who are blind is $2,460 in 2023.
If your annual earnings exceed SGA, there’s a good chance that you won’t qualify for the SSDI and SSI disability programs. This is because the SSA assumes that you’re not disabled because you can make SGA by working.
But, can you return to work and not lose your benefits when your earnings exceed SGA?
It’s possible through SSA’s “Ticket to Work” program. After you qualify for disability benefits, the SSA will allow you to return to the workforce to find out how much you can potentially earn (and still collect benefits).
⚖️ PRO TIP: The trial work program doesn’t apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
10. Your Application Satisfies the SSA Non-Medical Requirements
You may not always qualify for disability benefits even if you’ve met the SSA’s medical requirements. There are still some non-medical requirements that you need to address. These non-medical eligibility requirements may include the following:
- Age (by providing your birth certificate)
- Employment records
- Marital status
- Total amount of money you’ve contributed to the SSDI program
- Work credits (If insufficient, you can still qualify for SSI benefits.)
11. You’re Working with a Seasoned Disability Lawyer
Working with an attorney is also one of the best signs that you will be approved for disability. It plays a critical role in the approval process.
This is because the process of filing disability claims can be confusing and tedious. However, experienced disability lawyers can help you prepare the necessary medical and non-medical requirements to prove without a doubt that you’re eligible for disability benefits. Moreover, if the SSA rejects your application at the initial stage, disability lawyers can file appeals to convince the agency to reconsider your case.
You don’t have to commit to a disability lawyer right away. Most of them offer free consultations. Take advantage of this offer to help you determine if it’s what you need to ensure the SSA will approve your application.
FAQs About Signs That You Will Be Approved For Disability Benefits, and More
We have answered some common questions readers ask us about the approval process for social disability benefits and this topic in general.
How Do You Know if You Are Approved for Disability?
The SSA will mail you a decision letter once they have decided on your case, usually within three to six months of the initial decision. If you provided information about other family members during your application, the government agency will inform you whether they can receive benefits based on your record.
How Do I Check the Status of My Social Security Disability Application?
To check your application status, log in to your personal Social Security account online.
How Do I Check SSI Status By Phone?
If you cannot check online, call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday.
What Are the Social Security Disability Requirements for Adults?
The first thing you need to know is that the Social Security Administration provides benefits only for total disability and not for partial or short-term disability. That said, to qualify for disability benefits, you must meet the following criteria:
- Your medical condition must prevent you from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA) or performing any work.
- Your medical condition must also prevent you from performing your previous job or adapting to a new job.
- Your medical condition must be expected to last at least one year or result in death.
How Long Does It Take To Get Disability?
Or, how long does it take to get SSI once approved?
Here’s what you need to know.
After approval of your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application, you will need to wait 5 months before receiving your first SSDI benefit payment. This means that your initial payment will be issued in the sixth full month following the date your disability began.
What Is the Most Approved Disability?
Musculoskeletal disorders, which encompass various conditions affecting bones, muscles, and joints, are the most commonly approved disability by the SSA. In 2020, they made up approximately 34.8% of all disability approvals. Other frequently approved conditions include mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder, as well as neurological disorders like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
What Is the Schizophrenia Disability Approval Rate?
Studies have shown that the schizophrenia disability approval rate is pretty high. To put things into perspective, one study found that 80% of applicants with this condition received benefits or had pending applications. Only 20% of the applicants were denied benefits.
Does a Stroke Automatically Qualify You for Disability?
While stroke can have a devastating effect on your life and general well-being, that alone does not necessarily qualify you for disability. You can only qualify if the stroke causes severe limitations that prevent you from working and earning a substantial income.
Remember that the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates each individual case based on their specific medical condition, functional limitations, and ability to perform work-related activities. So to qualify for disability benefits, you must meet the SSA’s strict eligibility criteria for disability. For example, you may be able to qualify for benefits if you are unable to work for at least 12 months after your stroke.
Can My Doctor Put Me on Disability?
Your doctor can help you get the treatment you need but cannot put you on disability. In other words, a diagnosis of disability from your doctor alone does not guarantee that you will receive benefits. The process of applying for benefits must be initiated through the Social Security Administration (SSA). For this reason, only the SSA has the authority to approve or deny your disability claim.
What Should I Do if I Have a Denied Disability and Can’t Work?
If you have been denied disability and are unable to work, here are some steps you should take.
First, you can appeal the SSA’s decision if you believe it is incorrect. However, keep in mind that you must request an appeal within 60 days of the decision.
Consider consulting a lawyer or disability advocate. They can help guide you through the appeals process and review your case.
Disability benefits aside, you may qualify for other government programs or non-profit organizations that can provide financial and other forms of support to individuals with disabilities. Your attorney can help you explore your options if you don’t qualify for disability benefits from the SSA.
Having current and accurate medical records can support your case for disability benefits and future appeals. When applying for benefits, ensure that your records are current and accurate.
‘A Representative Started a Final Review of Your Application.’ What Does This Message Mean on My Social Security Account?
The above update means that a representative from the Social Security Administration is currently conducting a final review of your disability application. This is typically one of the last steps in the application process, indicating that a decision on your application may be coming soon. However, it is worth noting that the final decision on your application will still need to be reviewed and approved by a Social Security Administration medical consultant or disability examiner before a determination is made.
How Does the Social Security Disability Appeal Process Work?
Here’s how the appeal process for SSI benefits works.
Step #1: Reconsideration: If the SSA denies your initial SSI claim, you can request a reconsideration of the decision. A different reviewer will assess your case and make a new decision.
Step #2: Administrative Hearing: Suppose the second reviewer denies your claim after the reconsideration. In that case, you can request an administrative hearing. An administrative law judge (ALJ) will conduct the hearing, review your case, and decide the way forward.
Step #3: Appeals Council Review: So, what happens if the ALJ denies your appeal and you disagree with their decision? You can request a review by the Social Security Appeals Council. Keep in mind that the SSAC may decide to review your case or deny the request for review. If they review the case, they can decide on their own or send it back to the ALJ for further review.
Step #4: Federal Court Review: If you disagree with the Appeals Council’s decision, you may file a lawsuit in federal district court.
⚖️ PRO TIP: Providing additional evidence or documentation supporting your claim can increase your chances of a successful appeal. For best results, seek the assistance of an attorney or advocate to help you through the appeals process.
What Are Some Signs of a Good Disability Hearing?
As mentioned earlier, you may be able to file an appeal if the SSA denies your disability claims. When you file an appeal, and the SSA denies your case again, you may present it before an Administrative Law Judge.
During the disability hearing, you’ll likely obtain a positive outcome if the judge:
- asks detailed questions about your medical condition and symptoms;
- shows understanding and empathy towards your situation;
- asks about the impact of your condition on your daily life, work, and ability to perform daily tasks;
- asks about your medical treatment and the effectiveness of the treatments you have received;
- listens carefully to your testimony and does not interrupt or rush you;
- reviews all the evidence submitted in your case, including medical records and other supporting documents;
- asks questions to clarify any confusing or conflicting information in the record; and
- acknowledges any vocational or other expert testimony and considers it in the decision.
⚖️ PRO TIP: Each disability hearing is unique, and there are no guarantees of a positive outcome. However, these signs that you will be approved for disability can indicate a positive hearing experience and increase the chances of a favorable decision.
Is It Harder To Get SSI or SSDI?
SSI and SSDI have distinct eligibility requirements and approval processes, so it’s difficult to determine which one is harder to obtain.
On one hand, SSI is a need-based program that financially assists individuals who are disabled, blind, or over 65 with limited income and resources. To be eligible for SSI, you must satisfy strict income and asset limits as well as medical eligibility requirements.
SSDI, on the other hand, is an insurance-based program that grants benefits to individuals with a work history and who have paid Social Security taxes. To be eligible for SSDI, you must have a disability that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity and meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability.
That said, qualifying for SSDI may be more challenging due to the work history and tax contribution requirements. However, both programs’ approval process depends on the disability’s severity and the ability to fulfill the medical eligibility criteria.
What Does ‘Backpay Social Security’ Mean?
“Backpay social security” refers to retroactive payments an applicant may be entitled to under Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits that were not paid during the time between the filing date of the application and the date of approval.
These retroactive payments, also called back payments or retroactive benefits, are designed to compensate the individual for the delay in receiving the benefits they qualify for. The amount of backpay owed is calculated based on the following:
- date the disability began;
- application date for disability benefits; and
- the date when benefits were approved, minus a five-month waiting period.
Does Everyone Get Back Pay for Disability?
Yes, backpay is typically awarded to individuals approved for disability benefits, regardless of whether they applied for SSDI, SSI, or both. However, keep in mind that you will not receive any back pay if your claim is approved within five months of the onset of your disability.
This is because the SSA has a 5-month waiting period for these applications. So if your application was approved within that time, you technically did not have to wait beyond the waiting period (which is the whole point of receiving backpay).
How Long Does It Take To Get a Disability Approval Letter?
The Social Security Administration will send your benefit verification letter to the mailing address on file within 10 business days. Therefore, it’s important to ensure your address is current and accurate by checking or updating it on your Social Security account. If you recently changed your address, you must contact the SSA to update them with the new address.
Keep in mind that the time it takes for the mail to arrive at your address will depend on various factors, such as weather conditions, available workforce, and so on.
What Does a Disability Approval Letter Look Like?
A typical disability approval letter contains the following information:
- The title, (which is usually something like: Social Security Administration Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance Notice of Award)
- The address where the letter has been mailed from.
- The claimant’s name and address.
- The date of approval.
- The amount of benefits awarded.
- The start date of benefits.
- Any other important details regarding the disability claim.
How Can I Pass a Disability Exam?
Passing a disability exam is also one of the surest signs that you will be approved for disability.
Disability exams are designed to evaluate your medical condition and functional limitations to determine your eligibility for disability benefits. Therefore, you should provide honest and accurate information to the examining physician. Keep in mind that any misrepresentation or dishonesty can result in a denial of benefits.
You should also prepare for the exam by gathering relevant medical records or documentation supporting your disability claim. Also, be prepared to discuss your medical history and symptoms with the examining physician. Ultimately, the best way to pass a disability exam is by being honest, thorough, and providing accurate information to the examining physician.
What Are Some Signs That You Will Be Denied for Disability?
Now, let’s take a break from signs that you will be approved for disability and cross over to the other side.
When you apply for disability benefits, you always hope that the SSA will approve your application. But that’s not always the case. Statistics have shown that the SSA has more denials than approvals for benefits.
That said, you may be denied disability if you:
- lack medical evidence;
- engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA);
- fail to comply with your doctor’s treatment plan;
- fail to cooperate with the SSA; or
- have previous denials.
⚖️ PRO TIP: Each case is unique; these factors do not necessarily guarantee a denial. Consult a disability attorney if you are unsure about your eligibility for disability benefits.
The Bottomline: 11 Signs That You Will Be Approved for SSI Disability in 2023
Complying with the strict requirements of the Social Security Administration can cause frustration for anyone. And since each person’s case is unique, it’s relatively difficult to determine the outcome of each case. Hopefully, our 11 signs that you will be approved for disability can help relieve some of this frustration. If you have other questions or concerns, you might want to consider consulting a seasoned disability lawyer.