How to Prove You Can’t Work in Your SSDI Claim

Posted on October 31, 2023

Knowing how to prove you can’t work can improve the chances of your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim becoming successful. You can prove you can’t work by providing detailed and accurate medical records, including doctor’s notes and reports, X-rays and imaging reports, surgical notes, and diagnostic test results. A residual functional capacity (RFC) report prepared by your treating doctor can help verify the severity of your health situation and inability to work.

A Social Security disability lawyer knowledgeable about your state’s disability laws can guide you on how to prove you can’t work in your SSDI claim. The lawyer can assess your situation and determine the type of evidence you require to prove your claim. The lawyer can also handle the claim filing process and appear in court on your behalf if necessary.

What Is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

SSDI is an employment income tax-funded Social Security program that offers financial help to U.S. citizens with disabilities. Only persons who can’t work for 12 months or longer because of a disability receive benefits. Eligible persons receive those benefits every month.

You must have contributed a percentage of your earnings to the program and amassed sufficient credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. Your work history determines the number of credits accumulated. You must file an application and satisfy the eligibility criteria established by SSA (the Social Security Administration) to receive the benefits.

SSDI Eligibility Requirements in Illinois

You must satisfy the following criteria to be eligible for SSDI benefits in Chicago, Illinois:

  • Your medical condition or disability prevents you from working or performing a substantial gainful activity (SGA).
  • You can’t perform your pre-illness job or can’t perform any other work due to your disabling medical condition.
  • Your disability or medical condition has or is likely to last at least a year, or lead to death.
  • You are aged 66 years or less.
  • You satisfy SSA work credit requirements based on the amount of taxes remitted to the Social Security. Generally, anyone aged above 40 years must have worked for not less than five years of the past ten years. Note that the odds of winning Social Security disability when you are over 55 are higher than when you are younger.

Requirements to Prove Your Inability to Work in Illinois

You Do Not Work, or You Earn Less Than the SGA Threshold

You may be eligible for SSDI benefits if your disability or medical condition has rendered you completely incapable of working. You may also get approved for the benefits if you work, but your monthly earnings are below the SGA threshold. Note that the SGA threshold changes every year.

You Have a Severe Medical Condition

The SSA considers you disabled if your medical condition or situation substantially limits your ability to perform basic work activities for at least a year. These activities include sitting, standing, lifting, walking, and remembering.

You Have a Listed Medical Condition, or Your Symptoms Are Equivalent to a Listed Condition

The SSA maintains a list of eligible medical conditions. The severity of these conditions is sufficient to keep a person from performing work activities. Illinois relies on this list to determine a qualifying disability by checking if you have a listed medical condition or symptoms similar to a listed condition.

You Cannot Perform the Work Activities You Performed Before

The SSA may approve your claim if you cannot do any previous work activities. It will, however, deny your claim if it finds that your medical condition does not keep you from performing the work tasks you performed before.

You Cannot Engage in Any Other Kind of Work Activities

The SSA will carefully assess your age, academic qualification, work history, and skill set to determine if you can perform other work activities. The SSA will deem your medical situation an eligible disability if it determines that you cannot perform other work tasks.

Types of Medical Evidence That Can Support Inability to Work

Generally, the more medical evidence to support your inability to work, the higher the odds of your SSDI claim approval. Support your claim with the following medical evidence:

Doctor’s Notes and Reports

Your doctor and other medical practitioners will be instrumental in the success of your claim. Request your doctor to provide notes and reports outlining your limitations and how they impact your ability to work and your lifestyle.

The notes or reports should describe how long you can stand, sit, or walk. They should specify whether you can lift objects and what weight. They should also indicate whether you require rest breaks and how often.

Obtain statements from caregivers at home concerning your routine and whether you require assistance with personal care. Do not panic if your medical provider is unable, reluctant, or unwilling to help you. Instead, look for another doctor capable and willing to help you.

Diagnostic Test Results

You may have undergone various tests, depending on your medical condition. Your treating physician may have used the test results to devise a treatment plan that suits your unique health needs. Be sure to obtain records of any tests used to manage your medical situation or assessment of your disability.

X-rays and Imaging Reports

X-rays and other imaging scans, like CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds, are crucial in proving the inability to work in an SSDI claim. Be sure to get copies of these imaging scans and use them to support your case.

A Detailed Diary

A detailed diary can help show how a medical condition interferes with your everyday life and show the progress of the condition. The diary should list symptoms experienced, adverse effects of prescription medications, and daily tasks you struggle to perform, like showering, dressing, cooking, or walking.

What Is the Functional Limitations and Residual Functioning Capacity (RFC) Assessment?

A functional limitation describes an impairment that significantly affects your ability to carry out essential tasks in your work and daily life. You must show that an injury or medical condition keeps you from carrying out activities of your pre-injury work or any other related job for at least a year for your disability claim to be successful. You must also show that your medical condition results in specific functional limitations that harm your ability to perform work-related activities.

You must undergo a functional limitations assessment before starting a disability claim. Your treating doctor can perform several physical assessments and tests. The doctor can then prepare a statement to support your SSDI claim. On top of recording your diagnosis and treatment plan, your doctor will highlight the limitations that impact your ability to engage in daily living activities.

Functional limitations assessment does not stop after your SSDI claim gets approved. The SSA may request new functional limitations assessments from your treating physicians while you are collecting disability benefits.

You may also fill out a Disability Questionnaire periodically. Your responses will help SSA assess the degree of your functional limitations.

A residual functional capacity (RFC) evaluation measures your remaining capability to perform work-related tasks or activities after accounting for limitations or restrictions arising from your medical condition or disability. Your RFC must be at a specific level to be eligible for SSDI benefits if your medical condition does not match a listing.

Your RFC must keep you from doing your pre-illness work and all other substantial gainful activities. The specific RFC required to prove you cannot do your previous work or other available SGA activities is based on age, academic credentials, and work experience.

Outline your limitations and how they keep you from doing your past work or other work activities to bolster the odds of your SSDI claim getting approved.

How to Provide Evidence of Functional Limitations and Restrictions

The SSA largely relies on medical evidence when determining disability. So, you must submit sufficient medical evidence alongside your claim to improve your chances of securing approval. Allow the agency to obtain medical evidence from medical professionals who examined, diagnosed, or treated you.

Submitting correct and complete details and evidence on time can help fast-track your claim processing. That is why you should hire a lawyer for Social Security disability. The lawyer will be familiar with the evidence required to build a strong claim and how to submit it to the SSA.

Role of Vocational Experts in SSDI Claims

Vocational experts (VEs) testify during disability hearings in SSDI claims. The testimony explains the categorization of your previous job under the Dictionary of Occupational Title, commonly known as the “DOT.” It also responds to questions from the Administrative Law Judge and your SSDI attorney regarding the types of work a person with your limitations can and cannot perform.

The VE will provide a professional opinion regarding your capacity to perform your previous job-related tasks and the jobs you can still perform based on your work history, restrictions, and information in the DOT.