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shutterstock_2104132220.jpgWhen a physical or mental condition causes a person to be unable to work, they may rely on Social Security disability benefits to help meet their ongoing financial needs. The application process for these benefits can be complicated, and a person will need to demonstrate that they suffer from ongoing issues that have prevented them from maintaining gainful employment and that their condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year. Even after a person is granted disability benefits, they may experience issues related to the continuation of benefits, since Social Security will conduct regular reviews to ensure that they still meet the requirements to be considered disabled.

When Does Social Security Perform Disability Reviews?

While disability benefits will be paid for as long as a person has a disability, Social Security is required by law to review cases on an ongoing basis to ensure that people who receive benefits still meet all applicable requirements. The frequency of these reviews will usually depend on the severity of a person’s condition, and reviews may be conducted as follows:

  • If a person’s condition is expected to improve in the near future, a review will usually be performed between six and 18 months after the date when the person first became disabled.


shutterstock_1585711024-1.jpgFor those who suffer from physical or mental conditions that prevent them from working full-time, Social Security disability can provide essential financial assistance. However, the process of applying for these benefits can sometimes be complicated, and applicants will need to provide extensive documentation demonstrating that their condition is severe enough to be considered a disability by Social Security. If a claim is denied, a person can request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The testimony of medical and vocational experts can play an important role in this type of hearing. By understanding the types of issues these experts will address, a person can make sure they are taking the correct steps to receive the benefits they need.

Testimony of Medical Experts

A medical expert (ME) who testifies at a hearing will serve as an independent, impartial source who can review evidence and offer an opinion about a person’s limitations that may affect their ability to work. An ME will not physically examine a person; instead, they will review medical records and testimony provided by an applicant or other witnesses and answer questions asked by the ALJ and the applicant or their attorney. 

A medical expert will not offer opinions about whether a person is disabled or the specific types of work they can perform. Their testimony may address whether the person’s symptoms meet or are equivalent to the requirements detailed in Social Security’s Listing of Impairments. They may also offer their opinion on the limitations that may apply to a person while working, such as their ability to perform physical actions like lifting or carrying items, their ability to meet the mental demands of the workplace, their ability to maintain concentration and consistent pace, and how issues related to their sight, hearing, or other senses will affect the work they can perform. The information provided may be used to help the ALJ establish a person’s residual functional capacity (RFC).


shutterstock_575524987.jpgThere are multiple different types of health conditions that may cause a person to be disabled. Among these, conditions that result in severe back pain can be very difficult to deal with. Injuries that affect the muscles in the back or the bones, nerves, and other tissues in the spinal cord can affect a person’s ability to stand, walk, reach for and carry objects, bend over, or even sit in one place for an extended period of time. Because of these issues, those who suffer from back injuries or disorders affecting the spine will often struggle to hold down steady employment, since they may be unable to perform work-related tasks and maintain a consistent pace of work throughout the day. Fortunately, people with these conditions may be able to receive Social Security disability benefits. However, they will need to understand the qualifications that they will need to meet to show that their back pain or spinal injuries are severe enough to be considered a disability.

Requirements for Musculoskeletal Disorders Affecting the Back and Spine

Many back injuries will fall into the category of musculoskeletal disorders of the back and spine that affect nerve roots, including by placing compression on the spinal cord or otherwise causing these nerves to be inflamed or irritated. These disorders may include degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, spinal osteoarthritis, or dislocated or fractured vertebrae. Social Security will consider this type of disorder to be a disability if all of the following are true:

  • The person experiences symptoms radiating from the point where nerves have been affected, including pain, tingling sensations, or muscle fatigue.


plano social security lawyerDebilitating injuries or serious illnesses can play a major role in a person’s life, affecting their ability to work and support themselves and their family. For those who suffer from conditions that are severe enough to be considered a total disability, Social Security disability benefits can provide essential financial assistance. However, these benefits may not fully address a person’s needs, and they may wish to supplement them by finding ways to earn an income. However, a person who is disabled may be concerned about whether returning to work will affect their ability to continue receiving benefits. By understanding the restrictions that apply and the options that are available, a person can ensure that they will continue to have the financial resources they need.

Working While Receiving Disability Benefits

To qualify for Social Security disability, a person will need to demonstrate that they are not currently working, or if they are working, they are earning less than what is considered substantial gainful activity (SGA). In 2022, SGA is defined as $1,350 per month, or $2,260 per month for a person who is blind. A person who receives disability benefits may work part-time or in a low-wage position, and if they earn less than the amount that is considered SGA, this will not affect the benefits they receive.

Any changes in a person’s work should be reported to Social Security, including starting a new job, stopping work at a current job, or changes in hours, duties, or wages. Social Security also encourages those who receive benefits to return to work, and it offers some incentives to assist in the transition. These include employment networks, vocational rehabilitation agencies, and other organizations that offer education and job training, career planning, assistance with job placement, and other benefits.


shutterstock_1937889325-1-min.jpgWhen a person suffers from disabilities that are severe enough to limit their ability to maintain employment, they may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. These benefits can be crucial, ensuring that a person will have the financial resources to provide for their needs. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides benefits based on the income a person earned in the past. To qualify for SSDI, a person will need to meet a variety of criteria, and Social Security will look at the severity of their health condition and whether they are able to continue working. During this process, one issue that is considered is whether a person can do work they have performed in the past. By understanding how Social Security defines “past relevant work,” an applicant can be prepared to answer questions about their status, their ability to work, and their need for disability benefits.

Determining the Relevance of Past Work

During the five-step evaluation process used by Social Security, step number four looks at whether an applicant can do work that they had performed in the past. At this point, Social Security will examine a person’s Residual Functional Capacity (RFC), or their ability to perform different work-related tasks that fit within the limitations of their health conditions. RFC will be used to determine whether work the person had done in previous jobs will fit within their current limitations. However, only “past relevant work” will be considered. To be relevant, work must meet criteria for:

  • Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) - A person must have been able to earn enough money while working to sufficiently support themselves. Social Security adjusts the amount of monthly income that is considered SGA on an annual basis. By looking at the amount of income a person earned while working a past job, Social Security will determine whether it was equal to or greater than the SGA level at that time. Part-time jobs, volunteer positions, or other work for which a person earned a low income may not be considered during this step of the evaluation process.

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