Q: The online Social Security disability asked for my school background. Why does this matter if my doctor says I am disabled?
A: There are two basic areas considered when someone applies for Social Security disability. First, they must have worked long enough and recently enough to be insured. Second, they must meet the Social Security definition of disability. Asking about school and work experience helps determine if a person meets the disability definition.
The definition of disability for Social Security is different than other programs. No benefits are payable for partial or short-term disability.
The disability definition emphasizes ability to work. In addition to the work requirement, to be found disabled under Social Security rules you cannot do the work that you did before, you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical conditions, and your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or expected to result in death. Age, work experience and education are considered in the decision.
You are asked about your work experience and education to help determine your ability to work. Making this decision follows a national step-by-step process. Opinions of your doctor and other medical providers are important but generally only one part of making a decision.
Broadly speaking, two people with the same medical condition might receive different decisions based on their age, work experience or educational backgrounds. For example, compare someone age 50 having a high school diploma and work experience involving heavy lifting to someone age 30 with a college degree and a desk job. The ability of each to do work previously done, or to adjust to new work, could be very different and result in different decisions for the same medical condition.
This is a broad example. There are injuries and illnesses that are routinely approved based on medical diagnosis alone.
In the Disability Planner, learn how you qualify for Social Security disability benefits including work requirements, disability definitions and the steps followed in making the decision.
Completely different from Social Security retirement, survivors and disability programs, Social Security administers the need-based Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, also having disability benefits.