Will my application for Ohio Social Security disability benefits be approved?
In my experience as a Columbus disability attorney, the one question that every person who cannot work because of a disability wants to have answered is this: Will I be approved for Ohio Social Security disability benefits? Frustrating though it may be, there often is no easy answer to this question. The Social Security Administration is a large government bureaucracy that operates under a complex set of rules and regulations, and its decisions sometimes are counterintuitive. (For just a few examples of this, see Examples of who is and who is not disabled.)
While the outcome of your Ohio Social Security disability claim may be difficult to predict, the process by which the Social Security Administration decides your claim is quite predictable. In every case, the Social Security Administration employs a “5-step sequential evaluation process” to determine if an applicant is “disabled,” as that term is defined by the Social Security rules and regulations. The 5-step process requires the Social Security decision-maker to address the following questions, in the following order:
Step 1: Are you engaged in “substantial gainful activity”?
“Substantial gainful activity” is work that involves significant physical or mental activity, and that is usually done for pay or profit. If you are employed in “substantial gainful activity,” then your application for Ohio Social Security disability benefits will not be approved, no matter how severe your impairment is.
Step 2: Do you have a “severe” impairment?
The purpose of Step 2 is to weed out frivolous claims. If you have a medically determinable impairment that imposes more than minimal restrictions on your ability to work and is expected to last longer than 12 months or result in death, then you have a “severe” impairment.
Step 3: Does your impairment “meet or equal” a Listing impairment?
The Listing of Impairments is a set of criteria for disability found in the Social Security regulations. The Listing describes over 100 medical conditions that would ordinarily prevent a person from engaging in any gainful activity. If the medical signs, findings and symptoms of your impairment meet or “medically equal” the medical signs, findings and symptoms of a Listing impairment, then the Social Security Administration will find that you are disabled by virtue of your medical impairment alone. If you do not “meet or equal” a Listing, then the Social Security Administration will consider other, non-medical factors relevant to your ability to work, in Steps 4 and 5.
Step 4: Can you perform “past relevant work”?
To get past Step 4, you must prove that you are incapable of performing any “past relevant work.” In general terms, “past relevant work” is any substantial gainful activity you have performed in the past 15 years. Think of the easiest job you have held in the past 15 years. If you are no longer capable of doing that job, then you cannot perform “past relevant work.”
Step 5: Are you able to perform other work?
If you cannot perform past relevant work, then, in this final step of the sequential evaluation process, the Social Security Administration will determine whether you can do any other work that exists either in the Columbus metropolitan and central Ohio region or in significant numbers in the national economy. In making this determination, the Social Security Administration will evaluate your “residual functional capacity” (that is, what you are capable of doing, despite your disability) and related vocational factors (your age, education, work experience) to see if you could adjust to performing different work than you have done in the past. If not, then you will be deemed “disabled” according to the Social Security regulations, and your claim for Ohio Social Security disability benefits will be approved.
Knowledge of how the Ohio Social Security disability process works will give you confidence in going forward
As you may have surmised from this brief introduction to the 5-step sequential evaluation process, the path to obtaining Ohio Social Security disability benefits is not a straight line. In fact, it is more like a maze of complicated rules, regulations and legal terminology. The more knowledge you have about how the system works, the more confident you will be in moving forward.
This website contains over 100 pages of educational materials and practical advice to help you with your Columbus disability claim, at whatever stage in the process you may be. For example, if you are considering whether or not to apply for disability benefits, watch the short video Are You Likely to Qualify, which provides an introduction to the disability determination process.
If you already have applied for Ohio Social Security disability benefits, and your application was denied, you probably have questions about the appeals process and the administrative hearing. You will find helpful information on those topics here:
- Appealing a Denial of Benefits is a free e-booklet that offers practical tips and suggestions.
- How the Judge Determines Disability, another short video, offers insights into how an administrative law judge will evaluate your claim.
An Ohio disability attorney can help
Most successful applicants for Ohio Social Security disability benefits will have to file two appeals and testify at a hearing before their application is approved. This process will be easier, and your chances of success greater, if you have the steady hand of an Ohio disability attorney to guide you. We will gladly review your case, free of charge. Simply fill out the Claim Evaluation Form on the right side of this page. If you prefer, you may contact us by email or phone. We handle Columbus disability cases at all levels, from the initial application through the administrative hearing.
We wish you success.
Eric A. Jones
Ohio disability attorney
Jones Law Group, LLC
580 S. High St., Suite 100
Columbus, Ohio 43251