Iowa Disability Lawyer Answers Your Questions
Restoring hope, one client at a time. As an Iowa disability lawyer, I am driven by that one goal; it has been my personal and professional mission since I first began representing disabled Iowans in 1996. Prior to that, I worked for the Social Security Administration, as one of their attorneys, I have seen first-hand how a large government bureaucracy can frustrate and confuse even the most determined claimant.
Whether you live in a large city like Des Moines, a mid-sized city like Ames, or a smaller community like Pella, most people seeking Social Security disability benefits in Iowa have questions. I created this website to help provide you answers. Please take a few moments to review this page, and explore the educational materials on the other pages of this website. I hope you find the information to be helpful.
How does the Social Security Administration decide if I am “disabled” and entitled to receive Iowa disability benefits?
The Social Security regulations provide that an individual is “under a disability” if his “physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy . . . .” In applying this definition to your application for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration will consider the following five factors, in order:
- Are you presently employed?
Under the Social Security Administration regulations, if you are working at “substantial gainful employment,” then you are not disabled, no matter how severe your impairment is. “Substantial gainful employment” is work that requires a good amount of physical or mental activity and is “the kind of work usually done for pay or profit, even if a profit is not realized.” Thus, in general, if you are working at a job that requires more than minimal duties and you earn more than $1,000 per month at that job, then the SSA will find that you are not disabled. .
- Do you have a “severe physical or mental impairment”?
You must have a “medically determinable impairment” that is so severe that it prevents you from working. A “medically determinable impairment” is a condition that is diagnosed by a doctor and/or supported by objective medical evidence. An impairment that has only a slight effect on your ability to work is not a “severe” impairment. In addition, a “severe” impairment is one that is expected to result in death or to last for a continuous period of 12 months.
- Do you qualify under the Listing of Impairments?
The Listing of Impairments is a set of medical criteria for disability found in the Social Security regulations. The Listing impairments are so severe that if your condition “meets or equals” a Listing impairment, then the Social Security Administration will determine that you are disabled by virtue of your medical impairment alone.
- Can you perform work you have performed in the past?
When your claim for disability benefits cannot be decided on the medical factors alone (that is, when the answer to Question 3, above, is “No.”), the Social Security Administration will continue its evaluation of your claim by considering your ability to perform “past relevant work.” In making its evaluation, the Social Security Administration will compare your current ability to work, or “residual functional capacity,” to the mental and physical demands of your easiest job. If SSA determines that you are able to do any work that you have done in the last 15 years, then it will find you are not disabled.
- Can you perform any other type of work?
If the answer to Question 4, above, is “no,” then the Social Security Administration will ask, “Can you perform any other job that exists in t significant numbers in the national economy?” Here, the SSA decision maker will take into consideration your age, education, work experience and current ability to work, despite your disability.
Should I Apply?
If you have a physical or mental impairment that prevents you from working and has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months and is documented by medically accepted evidence, then you should apply for Social Security disability benefits. To learn more about when, how and whether to apply for disability benefits, I suggest you start with the following:
- Frequently Asked Questions provides a good introduction to Iowa Social Security disability.
- Are You Likely to Qualify is a short video introduction to the disability determination.
- 9 Tips for Applying offers additional information on how the Social Security Administration determines whether to award benefits.
Should I Appeal?
There are five levels in Social Security disability benefits application process: (1) initial application, (2) reconsideration, (3) hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, (4) Appeals Council, and (5) appeal to federal court. Nationally and in Iowa, most initial applications and requests for reconsideration are denied. While this process undoubtedly is frustrating, it is not hopeless. Applicants for disability benefits who pursue their claim through a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge are awarded disability benefits more often than not. Thus, if you cannot work because of a disabling health condition, you should appeal any denial of your application for Social Security disability benefits at least through the hearing stage. You can learn more about the appeals process by reviewing the following:
- Your Disability Hearing contains a set of articles that give you an inside look at the hearing stage of the disability determination process.
- How the Judge Determines Disability is a video that explains how an administrative law judge evaluates your eligibility.
How Does the Social Security Administration View my Particular Condition?
In the Library, below, I have compiled information that explains how the SSA evaluates 23 common impairments. I also have included valuable medical opinion forms. See Applying for Disability Benefits When You Have…. If you are dealing with pain, the article Proving Pain suggests practical ways to help the Social Security decision-maker understand the true nature and intensity of your pain.
Do I Really Need an Iowa Disability Attorney?
You are not required to have a lawyer represent you in order to obtain social security disability benefits. However, a quick review of this website should reveal the complex and often convoluted nature of the rules and regulations that govern the Social Security disability determination. An Iowa disability lawyer who speaks the language of the Social Security Administration can walk you through this process, step by step, and help you present your strongest case.
If you would like my input on your Social Security disability claim, please complete the Claim Evaluation form to the right, or call my office. If you prefer, send me an email.