As we mentioned in our last blog, navigating the process of applying for Social Security disability benefits can be difficult and confusing. And one of the most complicated parts of the process is gathering medical evidence — both the right kind and the right amount.
In this article, we’ll cover the importance of medical evidence in Social Security disability claims and how to determine what documents and information to use to support your claim.
What role does medical evidence play in a Social Security disability claim?
Medical evidence is the backbone of any Social Security disability claim. It serves as the foundation upon which the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates the severity and impact of your impairment.
The goal is to establish a clear connection between your medical condition and your inability to engage in what the SSA calls substantial gainful activity (SGA). Generally speaking, work that earns more than $1,550 ($2,590 for blind individuals in 2024 will qualify as SGA.
What types of medical evidence do I need to support a Social Security disability claim?
Before filing a Social Security disability claim, you should gather a series of records:
- Medical records: Detailed medical records from healthcare providers, including physicians, specialists, and hospitals, that outline the diagnosis, treatment plans, and the impact of the condition on your daily life.
- Diagnostic tests and imaging: Objective evidence such as X-rays, MRIs, and other diagnostic tests can demonstrate the severity of your impairment.
- Treatment history: A consistent and documented history of medical treatment, including medications, surgery, physical therapy, and other medical interventions, shows your ongoing efforts to address your disability.
- Statements from healthcare professionals: Expert opinions from treating physicians or specialists can carry significant weight. Each statement should highlight the limitations imposed by the disability and the prognosis for improvement.
- Functional reports: Personal accounts of your daily activities and challenges due to the disability can provide valuable insight into how the impairment affects your ability to work.
How does the SSA evaluate medical evidence?
The SSA follows a five-step evaluation process to determine your eligibility for disability benefits. Medical evidence is considered at each stage of this process:
- Substantial gainful activity: If medical evidence shows that you cannot perform substantial work due to your impairment, it strengthens your case.
- Severity of impairment: The severity of your medical condition is evaluated based on the evidence provided. The more detailed and convincing your medical records, the better your chances of satisfying this criterion.
- Listing of impairments: The SSA maintains a list of impairments that outlines specific medical conditions that automatically qualify for disability benefits. Strong medical evidence aligning with these listings can streamline the approval process.
- Ability to perform past work: If you can’t perform your previous job duties, it supports your claim.
- Ability to perform other work: If your medical evidence shows that you can’t perform other types of work due to significant functional limitations, it can sway the SSA’s decision in your favor.
Reach out to experienced disability attorneys in Richmond for help
We can’t emphasize enough how important medical evidence is for your Social Security disability claim. It is a key factor in the SSA’s decision-making process, so you should prioritize gathering comprehensive and well-documented medical evidence to increase the likelihood of a successful disability claim.
Our experienced disability attorneys can help you understand what medical evidence will best support your claim. Reach out today to learn more about how our disability attorneys in Richmond, Virginia, can help you apply for Social Security disability benefits.