Navigating the disability application process is a marathon, not a sprint, with many applicants enduring four to six months for an initial decision. The anticipation only intensifies for those facing denials and subsequent hearings, extending the time frame even more. (Learn more about Reasons for Denial of Social Security Disability.) 

However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) won’t provide explicit signs of approval. Instead, applicants must scrutinize their overall situation, examining factors such as medical conditions, age, and work history that will help determine the number of times they can apply for disability. These elements collectively shape what the SSA deems a compelling case for disability, offering subtle indications of potential approval.

Some of the signs that you will be approved for disability are as follows:

  • Frequent visits to a healthcare provider
  • Past hospitalization due to your condition
  • Age surpassing 50
  • History of physically demanding employment
  • The absence of an advanced degree
  • An applicant has to meet the work credit requirement

Frequent visits To A Healthcare Provider

Seeing a specialist regularly enhances the likelihood of approval for your SSI claim, indicating your proactive effort to manage or improve your condition. Certain medical conditions, especially those that cause mobility loss, offer strong cases for disability, mainly if they are chronic and degenerative, such as: 

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Arthritis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Huntington’s disease

Conditions like terminal cancer, being on dialysis, and ALS fall under a subset known as “listing level,” often leading to automatic disability approval, though these cases constitute a small minority.

Past Hospitalization Due To Your Condition

Another positive indicator that your disability claim is likely to be approved is if you’ve had hospitalizations related to your condition, whether it’s a physical ailment or a mental health issue. 

For mental health conditions, instances of severe crises leading to hospitalizations or intensive outpatient treatment can significantly emphasize the seriousness of your case. Sharing such experiences can effectively convey the gravity of your situation to the authorities. 

Age Surpassing 50

The likelihood of your disability claim being approved increases as you age, with individuals over 50 having a higher chance and those over 60 facing even more favorable odds. (See more on Social Security Disability Rules After Age 50)

This is attributed to the idea that as you get older, you become “less trainable” in the eyes of the government. For instance, if you previously engaged in physically demanding work that you can no longer perform, the government is less likely to suggest you transition to a different job, especially if you’re older. 

This is because specific skills, particularly those associated with specialized occupations like welding, may not readily transfer to other industries, making retraining less feasible, especially if you’re over 50.

History Of Physically Demanding Employment

A positive indicator that your disability claim will be approved is if you previously had a physically demanding job and your body is now unable to handle it. The Social Security Administration (SSA) assesses your physical residual functional capacity (RFC) to gauge your limitations based on medical evidence. This evaluation considers your ability to perform activities like

  • Standing
  • Walking
  • Sitting
  • Lifting
  • Carrying
  • Bending

Furthermore, they will categorize you into sedentary to very heavy work groups. Suppose your physical limitations prevent you from continuing your previous job, and factors like education or age hinder you from transitioning to a different type of work. In that case, it significantly strengthens your disability claim.

The Absence Of An Advanced Degree

Not having an advanced degree can enhance the likelihood of being approved for disability benefits. A lower level of education may limit your eligibility for more specialized positions that require specific skills. 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers substantial gainful activity (SGA) as a benchmark, and earning above a certain monthly amount is deemed engagement in SGA. 

The lack of higher education may impact your ability to secure higher-paying jobs under SGA. During the hearing phase, you can use your education level to argue that specific jobs classified as “skilled work” don’t apply to you, providing valuable support for your disability claim.

An Applicant Has To Meet The Work Credit Requirement

Fulfilling the work credit requirement is a crucial initial step when seeking Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits. Work credits are earned through employment in positions that require the payment of social security taxes. 

For every $1,650 earned in covered earnings, one credit is capped at four credits per year at $6,560 in covered earnings. The eligibility for disability benefits hinges on the number of work credits assessed through a recent work test and a duration work test based on age:

  • Under 24 years old: Need six work credits earned in a three (3) year period.
  • Between 24 and 31 years old: Must have at least four work credits in at least half the years between the age of 21 and the year the disability started.
  • 31 or older: Requires a minimum of 20 work credits in the ten years proceeding the year the disability commenced.

It’s crucial to understand that insufficient work credits render an individual ineligible for Social Security Disability Benefits. However, an application for Supplemental Security Income can still be pursued (Get detailed information on SSDI v/s SSI).

Need Legal Help? Contact a lawyer

A Social Security disability lawyer plays a pivotal role in seeking disability benefits by navigating the complex application process, gathering compelling medical evidence, and advocating for the client’s rights. Their expertise ensures that the legal aspects are addressed, increasing the likelihood of a successful disability claim.

FAQs On Disability Approval

The duration for disability approval can vary widely, typically taking several months to years. Initial applications may take four to six months for an initial decision, but the process can extend further if a hearing is necessary. The case's complexity, the backlog of claims, and whether appeals are involved contribute to the varying timelines.
Some conditions may automatically qualify applicants for disability benefits based on the severity and nature of the impairment. These are often referred to as "listing level" conditions. Examples include terminal cancer, being on dialysis, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Meeting the specific criteria outlined by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for these conditions may lead to expedited approval of disability benefits.
If you are approved for disability benefits, you will typically receive an approval letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA). This letter will detail your approved benefits, including the amount and when you can expect them. Additionally, you may receive a notice indicating the onset date of your disability and any retroactive benefits you may be entitled to.
The average time for disability approval can vary widely, but it often takes 3 to 5 months. The process involves a thorough review and evaluation of medical documentation, and factors such as the type of disability and the specific circumstances can impact the timeline.