ssdi eligibility

Our Experienced Louisiana Social Security Disability Lawyer Guides Clients Through the Complexities of the SSDI Application Process 

When a severe and long-lasting medical condition prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can provide monthly financial payments to help you make ends meet. Unfortunately, getting approved for the SSDI benefits you deserve can be challenging, even when you have a qualifying condition. The good news is that you don’t have to brave the complex, lengthy, and confusing SSDI application process alone. At Phillip M. Hendry Law, our accomplished Louisiana Social Security disability lawyer guides clients through each step of the SSDI application and evaluation processes, providing skilled legal counsel and compassionate support at every turn. 

Reviewing Your SSDI Eligibility 

Managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program for individuals who have a severe medically determinable impairment (MDI) that prevents them from earning above the substantial gainful activity (SGA) income threshold. You might qualify for SSDI if:

  • You have a severe MDI
  • Your MDI prevents SGA
  • Your MDI has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months or is terminal
  • You’ve earned sufficient work credits in jobs that paid into Social Security (applicants generally need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the 10 years prior to disability onset)

Understanding the Social Security Administration’s Evaluations Process for SSDI Applications

The Social Security Administration uses a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether to award you benefits. Once you’ve submitted your SSDI application, it goes to a network of local field offices and federally-funded State Disability Determination Services (DDS) agencies for processing. Workers at the field office verify your age, employment, and other non-medical eligibility requirements before sending your case to a DDS for a full evaluation.

Step One: Substantial Gainful Activity 

SSDI is based on the inability to work, so the DDS first checks to see if you’re still working and, if so, if you’re earning more than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit. The SSA typically increases these amounts annually to keep pace with the national average wage index. In 2024, the SGA threshold is $1,550 per month or $2,590 for blind applicants. The DDS will come to one of two conclusions during Step One:

  • If you’re working and earning more than SGA allows, the SSA denies your application for SSDI. 
  • If you aren’t working or earning above the current SGA, your application moves to the next step.

Step Two: Severity 

Eligibility also hinges on the severity of your medical condition, so DDS considers whether your medically determinable impairment (MDI) is severe enough to interfere with basic work-related tasks. They also confirm that your MDI meets the duration requirement, meaning it's expected to last for at least 12 months or cause death. Step Two results in one of two decisions:

  • If your impairment isn’t severe enough to limit your work activities or is expected to resolve more quickly than 12 months, the SSA denies your SSDI application.
  • If your MDI is sufficiently severe and long-lasting, your application continues to Step Three.

Step Three: Meeting or Equaling a Listing

MDI severity is also the focus of Step Three, as DDS considers whether your condition is severe enough to "meet" or "equal" a listing in the SSA Blue Book, a medical guide containing a listing of qualifying conditions and the specific criteria for approval. A DDS will determine whether your case meets the following conditions:

  • If you have a qualifying condition and meet the approval criteria, or if you have a condition that's equally disabling, DDS finds you disabled and the SSA approves you for SSDI benefits.
  • If you don't have an MDI that meets or equals a Blue Book listing, DDS assesses your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) for use in Steps Four and Five. An RFC is a function-by-function assessment of the maximum sustained physical and mental work tasks you can do despite your medical limitations and restrictions.

Step Four: Past Relevant Work 

DDS compares your RFC assessment to your past relevant work to determine if you're still capable of performing the work you once did. They will determine your work and come to one of two decisions:

  • If you can perform past relevant work of any kind, DDS decides that you aren't disabled and denies your application for SSDI.
  • If you're incapable of performing past relevant work, or if you lack relevant work, your application moves on to the final step.

Step Five: Adjustments to Other Work

At this stage, DDS has the burden of proving that you can adapt to other work in the national economy. When making this determination, DDS considers your age, education, work experience, and the limiting effects of your MDI.

  • If you can adjust to other work, DDS denies your SSDI application.
  • If you can’t adjust to other work, DDS finds you disabled and approves you for benefits.

How Our Experienced SSDI Attorneys Can Help You

If you’re considering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) but unsure whether you’ll be approved, you’ve come to the right place. Longtime Louisiana Social Security disability lawyer Phillip M. Hendry can help you review your SSDI eligibility, complete the application, and understand the evaluation process for determining whether you’re awarded benefits.