If you’re applying for disability, you probably already know how tedious and time-consuming this process can be.
Most applicants have to wait four to six months between applying and getting an initial decision. If your application is denied and you move forward with a hearing, this takes even longer. And throughout the whole process, you’re left to wait and wonder about which way the decision will swing.
If you’re looking for signs your disability claim will be approved, these most likely won’t come from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Instead, pull back the lens to look at your situation as a whole — considering factors like your medical condition(s), age, and work history.
These can clue you in to what constitutes a “good case” for disability according to the SSA.
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Here are five promising signs that you will be approved for disability:
If you regularly see a specialist for medical treatment, this is a good sign your SSI claim will be approved. Receiving regular treatment from a medical professional shows that you’re putting effort into trying to improve or manage your condition.
It’s also helpful to know that certain conditions make it easier to apply for disability. For instance, maybe you’ve lost mobility and you can’t sit or stand. You either have to constantly move around, or you need to be reclined. This makes for a very strong case.
You also have a better chance of receiving disability if you have a condition that won’t get better — it’s only going to get worse. Some examples of chronic conditions that are often degenerative include:
People who have conditions like these are more likely to be approved at the application phase.
A small subset of cases, called “listing level,” tend to automatically qualify for disability. These include conditions like:
Being on dialysis
However, these automatic qualifications make up a very small number of cases.
Another promising sign your disability claim will be approved: You’ve spent time in the hospital for your condition. This is true for both physical and mental conditions.
If you’re seeking disability for a mental condition, severe mental health crises show the severity of your condition. Hospitalizations and intensive outpatient treatment are both helpful to share. These help get across the gravity of your case.
#3. You’re over 50
The older you are, the easier it is for your disability claim to be approved.
Your SSI claim is more likely to go through if you’ve over 50. If you’re over 60, things get even easier. This makes you “less trainable” to the government.
For example, maybe you worked in a field requiring physical labor you can no longer do. If you were younger, the government might suggest you could get an office job. If you’re older, however, they most likely will not.
Certain skills don’t transfer well to other positions. The SSA states that transferability is most probable among jobs where:
The same or a lesser degree of skill is required
The same or similar machines or tools are used
The same or similar raw materials, products, processes, or services are involved
If you worked as a welder, you might not immediately have the skills needed for an office job. Mining, agriculture, and fishing are examples of other vocations so specialized that associated skills are not readily usable in other industries, jobs, and work settings. And if you’re over 50 years of age, the government is less likely to train you for another position.
#4. You had a physically demanding job
If you once worked a physically demanding job that your body is no longer able to handle, this could set you up for success with your disability claim.
When the SSA considers your disability application, they look at something called your physical residual functional capacity (RFC). To determine your RFC, the SSA uses your medical evidence to determine your level or limitation.
Depending on your ability to stand, walk, sit, lift, carry, and bend, you’ll be sorted into one of five categories:
The more physical work you can do, the higher placement (“heavy” or “very heavy”) you’ll receive.
If your physical limitations mean you are no longer able to work your previous job (and your education or age prevents you from doing a different type of work), this is one of the best signs your disability claim will be approved.
#5. You don't have an advanced degree
If you don’t have an advanced degree, this is another good sign of getting approved for disability. A lower level of education means you may not be able to work in a more specialized position—one that requires a certain type of skills.
To be eligible for disability benefits, you must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) for at least twelve consecutive months. Someone who is earning more than a certain monthly amount is considered to be engaging in SGA. A lack of higher education might limit you from landing higher-paying positions that would count as SGA.
The SSA uses materials published by the Department of Labor to classify occupations as unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled. According to those guidelines:
Unskilled work can be learned on the job in a short period of time (30 days). You don’t need to prepare or train for this specific job.
Semi-skilled work needs some skills, but doesn’t involve more complex work duties.
Skilled work requires qualifications that will help you figure out machine operations, or deal with complex abstract ideas.
If your case goes to the hearing phase, you can use your level of education to prove why other jobs “skilled work” that counts as SGA—won’t apply to you.
Signs your SSI or SSDI claim will be approved
If you’re still unsure whether you have a good case for disability, we’d love to help. Here at Atticus, we provide legal advice at no cost—and if your disability claim goes to hearing, we can connect you with a lawyer from our network of vetted attorneys. Click here to learn more about disability benefits and how we can work with you to get your disability claim approved.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How will I know if I got approved for disability benefits?
How you’ll be notified of your approval or denial depends on where you are in the application process. If you’ve just applied, you’ll receive your decision in the mail with a confirmation of your approval or an explanation of why you were denied. If you’ve had a trial, you’ll also receive a decision in the mail—but your attorney will likely hear back from the SSA first.
What are signs that I'll be approved for disability?
Unfortunately, the SSA doesn’t give “hints.” Denials don’t come more quickly than approvals, a consultative exam isn’t a “good” or “bad” sign, and requests for supplemental paperwork are standard practice. The best way to know if you’ll be approved is to consider the strength of your case and your application. This article explains what makes for a stronger case.
How long does it take to get approved for disability?
Getting approved for disability can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. You'll get a decision on your initial application within 5-6 months. If you're rejected, you can appeal the decision by filing for reconsideration. If you're again rejected, you can attend a hearing, and have to wait for a hearing date. For more on what timeline you can expect, read our article:How Long Does it Take to Get Approved for Disability?
What conditions automatically approve you for disability?
Some conditions (called either compassionate allowance conditions or TERI conditions) automatically medically qualify you for disability benefits. You'll still have to meet the income and/or work history requirements to be approved. Here's a list of the conditions that automatically medically qualify for benefits.
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