Houston disability attorneys explain how Texas Social Security claims are evaluated

At our Houston disability law firm, we understand that pursuing Social Security disability benefits can seem overwhelming.

When you are disabled through illness or injury everything becomes more difficult. The first thing that becomes a problem is your job because you find that you cannot do it anymore. The obvious thing to do is to apply for Texas Social Security disability benefits, but even that seems overwhelming because you are not feeling as good as you used to and it can be hard to deal with the bureaucracy of the Social Security Administration.

Do you qualify for Social Security disability benefits?

The first question asked by most of our Houston disability clients is “Do I qualify for Texas disability benefits?” If you are unable to work, then you could be entitled to Social Security benefits. We have created this 100-page website to help answer your questions about whether and how to pursue your claim.

The basic requirements are that your illness or injury must have already lasted for 12 months, or be expected to last for 12 months, and that the illness or injury prevents you from being able to work.

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How does the Social Security Administration evaluate your Houston disability claim?

The process that the Social Security Administration uses to decide whether or not you are entitled to benefits is long and complicated, with a lot of detailed rules and regulations.

The process itself begins with a claim that you file with the Social Security Administration. You can file your claim by (1) phoning 1-800-772-1213 for an appointment, or (2) completing your application online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability/. See Tips for applying for further advice. The Social Security Administration will forward your claim to a local Texas agency that has a contract with the Social Security Administration to make the initial determination on disability claims. If the examiner from that office denies the claim then you can ask that the office reconsider the claim. If the office again denies the claim after reconsidering it, then you can appeal to the Social Security Administration for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.

In evaluating your claim, the disability examiner or Administrative Law Judge follows five steps, asking:

  • Are you working? Specifically, in the words of the Social Security Administration, the question is whether you are performing “substantial gainful activity.” If you are performing substantial gainful activity, which means that you are working at a job that requires significant activities and pays more than a minimal amount, you will not be eligible for disability benefits.
  • Is your condition severe? To be severe, your condition must be a “medically determinable impairment” that imposes more than minor limitations on your ability to work. Also, the impairment must have lasted or be expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.
  • Is your condition listed in the Social Security regulations? The regulations include something known as the “Listings of Impairments.” At this step your medical condition is compared to the requirements in the Listings. If you satisfy this step then you have qualified for disability benefits and you do not need to go to the next two steps.
  • Can you do your previous jobs? This means not just the job you just had, but any job you have had in the last 15 years that counts as “substantial gainful activity.” If you can do previous jobs, you will not be disabled.
  • Can you do any other job? This step requires looking at your age, education, work experience, and your disability to see if there is anything that you can do. You will qualify for benefits if you cannot do other jobs that exist in significant numbers.
    For more information on whether you are disabled for Social Security disability purposes, see the video “Are you likely to qualify” at the top of this page.

How a Houston disability attorney can help

Working through the Social Security Administration’s five steps and then dealing with its appeal process can be confusing and frustrating.

We can take that burden from you, by helping you at all phases of the process. We can help prepare the papers that you need to file; we can work with your doctor or therapist to see that their reports support your claim; we can teach you what to expect at the hearing stage; and we can help you select witnesses who can provide testimony that will promote your claim.

If you live in Houston or elsewhere in southeast Texas and want help with your Social Security disability claim, whether it is filing the initial claim or appealing a denial, we can help.

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