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Your functional capacity and SSDI benefits

If your illness or condition is making it more difficult for you to complete your duties at work, you may be entertaining the idea of applying for Social Security Disability Insurance. You have probably heard of SSDI. For example, you may have a friend or family member who is "on disability," but you may be like many who do not fully understand what it means to qualify for the program's benefits.

Disability benefits are for those who cannot work even in a reduced capacity in their normal occupation. The Social Security Administration is very careful in its evaluation of applications for SSDI, and the majority of people who apply do not obtain benefits. Many of these people simply do not qualify, but the SSA often rejects claims because applicants have difficulty navigating the complex process alone.

How can I qualify for benefits?

The goal of SSDI is to provide financial assistance for people who cannot work because of certain illnesses, injuries or conditions. The overall qualifying factors include having a condition that is on the SSA's list of approved conditions and that will result in your death or prevent you from working for at least one year. This is not limiting to the work you do now, but your medical condition must keep you from any gainful employment.

In fact, through the information you submit on your application, the SSA will determine your level of residual functional capacity. RFC is the work you can still do despite your condition. Your level of RFC will be important for the following reasons:

  • If you cannot walk or stand, you may still have RFC that allows you to do sedentary tasks.
  • Even if you are unable to lift or carry objects, your RFC may include standing for longer periods or working from a seated position.
  • Your age will also contribute to the SSA's assessment of your RFC.
  • Your RFC is not strictly your physiological limitations but may include your level of pain or the symptoms of your condition that prevent you from performing even sedentary tasks.
  • If the SSA determines that you have any RFC, they will deny your claim for benefits since you are still theoretically able to work and earn money.

Your presentation of your symptoms, your pain level, your medications and other factors will be important in helping the SSA determine whether you are eligible for disability benefits. Because your condition may make it difficult for you to fight for your own cause, you may find it helpful to seek the guidance and advocacy of a North Carolina attorney with experience in disability cases.

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