There are a number of “terms of art” that you will encounter prior to and during the actual Social Security Disability process, which I have explained in non-technical language, in order for even a non-attorney to understand the true meaning of each Social Security terms that you will encounter during your claim.

Disabled Adult – Someone 18 years old or older found to be insured and disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Disabled Widows or Widowers – A widow or widower, age 50-59, found to be disabled by the Social Security Administration and the surviving spouse of someone who received Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Social Security Retirement benefits.

Divorced Spouses – Someone 62 years or older, who was married to a worker entitled to Social Security Benefits for at least 10 years (may need to be divorced for at least 2 years).

Surviving Spouses – Someone age 60 or older who was married (can be divorced) to an insured person that has died or someone who was married (can be divorced) to an insured person and who is caring for an under 16 year old child of that deceased insured person.

Children of Disabled Adults – Someone under age 18 who is the non-married child of someone receiving Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, or was considered “insured” at the death of that person.

Required Amount – This refers to being “insured” – The required amount is based on “credits” earned per year. It is possible to earn 4 credits per year while working. Generally if you are younger than 24 you need to have earned at least 6 credits in the three year period prior to the start of your disability. Generally, if you are 24-30, you need to have accumulated half of the credits possible from the time you were 21 until the start of your disability. Generally, if you are 31 or older you must have worked at least five of the last 10 years prior to your disability.

Medically Determinable – The Social Security Administration (SSA) must be able to determine that you have a physical and/or mental condition that does not allow you to work, through the objective findings of a medical doctor (signs), your descriptions of your condition (symptoms) and laboratory findings.

Mental, Physical or Combination Impairment – Your “impairment” (abnormal condition that keeps you from working) must be listed in the “blue book” (SSA book listing and describing impairments that qualify for disability) involving your body structure, body function, mental state or combination of the three.

Work Relating – This means you will not be denied disability if your impairment does not prevent you from doing a particular available job, but due to your previous work skills, age and education you just don’t possess the qualifications for the job (for example the job requires education or skills you do not have). You will be denied SSDI if your impairment does not prevent you from performing a paying job that you are qualified to perform in the national economy.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) – The so-called “SGA requirement” disqualifies you from SSDI if you are able to work and earn over $1350 per month of gross income (before taxes – in 2022). In other words, if you are working even with the impairment, but earning less than about $1300 per month in gross income you still qualify for Social Security Disability (SSDI) under SGA

Reconsiderations – A reconsideration is an appeal from a denial of the initial claim and must be requested within 60 days of the denial date posted on the denial notice or you will have to file a new claim (start over). The same Disability Determination Service (DDS) office that considered your initial claim also does the reconsideration, however the Medical Consultant (MC) and Disability Examiner (DE) will be different than the personnel that did your initial claim.

Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) – This is an attorney employed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as a judge, who holds hearings on appeals of denials of reconsiderations. At your hearing the ALJ will either grant approval of your claim or affirm the denial of the reconsideration, which denies your claim.

Regular and Recent – The Disability Determination Service (DDS) office will want to see regular reports on your impairment since the time you claim the impairment began. Try to go no more than two months between examinations and it is imperative that the last exam record is no more than two months old when the DDS gets the file.

Appeals Council (AC) – If your claim is denied by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), then you can appeal to the AC, which is located in Falls Church, VA. The appeals council can deny a review (making the denial final), send the case back to the same ALJ or another ALJ for further action, or they can reverse the ALJ decision and approve your benefits.

Federal Court System – If your claim is denied by the Appeals Council (AC), you have the right to appeal your denial to the local Federal District Court in your area. You have the right to appeal using the Federal Court System all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

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