- Step 1. Do you work? You must not be working or, if you are working, you must be earning less than an amount specified by the Social Security Administration (which is $1,000 per month for 2010) and your work must involve no more than minimal duties. If you are not working or your work meets these requirements, your claim moves to Step 2.
- Step 2. Do you have a “severe” physical or mental impairment that can be established through medically acceptable diagnostic techniques? An impairment or combination of impairments is considered severe by the Social Security Administration if it significantly limits your physical or mental ability to do basic work activities such as understanding, carrying out, and remembering simple instructions; walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying, and handling; and use of judgment. If you have a severe impairment, your claim moves to Step 3.
- Step 3. Does your physical or mental impairment meet or equal a listed impairment? You will be found disabled by the Social Security Administration if your impairment (i) meets or “equals” one of the impairments described in the Social Security regulations known as the Listing of Impairments and (b) has lasted or is expected to last more than 12 months. If you satisfy this step, you qualify for New Jersey Social Security disability benefits. There is no need to continue onto the next two steps. If you impairment does not meet or equal a listing, your claim moves on to Step 4.
- Step 4. Can you still do your “past relevant work”? You will not be found disabled if you can still do your “past relevant work.” To meet this step, you must prove that you are incapable of doing the easiest job you held in the last 15 years, even if you would never be hired for it today, or the job no longer exists. If you can do your past relevant work, you will be not found disabled. If you cannot do past relevant work, your claim progresses to Step 5.
- Step 5. Can you do other work? If you can perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the national or local economies, then you will be found not disabled. This step considers your age, education, work experience, and remaining work capacity. If you cannot do other generally available jobs, you will be eligible for disability benefits. The older you are, the easier it is to be found disabled.
- If Social Security disability is a new topic for you, my answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security disability benefits provide a good introduction to the topic.
- My video called Are You Likely to Qualify delivers a succinct introduction to how the Social Security Administration makes its disability determinations.
- Applying for Disability Benefits When…. spells out how the Social Security Administration evaluates particular impairments and provides medical opinion forms.
- My free e-booklet, Appealing a Denial of Benefits, provides additional practical advice. See the top right corner of this page.
- The articles in Your Disability Hearing, located in my Library below, provide an inside look at the stage of the disability determination process where you are most likely to win.
- To hear how an administrative law judge will evaluate your eligibility for Social Security disability, see my video on the top of this page called How the Judge Determines Disability.
Will I qualify for New Jersey Social Security disability benefits?
As a New Jersey disability lawyer, I often get asked this question by applicants seeking New Jersey Social Security disability benefits. To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must be found “disabled” by the Social Security Administration. The Social Security rules for determining whether or not you are disabled are complicated and sometimes outcomes as a result of their application defy common sense. For example, you will not be found disabled because your doctor says you are disabled or you cannot locate an employer who is willing to hire you.
When evaluating your disability claim, the Social Security Administration uses a five-step approach to evaluating your disability claim that considers your ability to work, recent jobs, education, and age. The following is a summary of the five-step disability evaluation process. Note that the words in quotes have special meaning to the Social Security Administration.
To receive Social Security disability benefits, you must have paid Social Security taxes over a long enough period of time and paid such taxes recently enough. If you met the requirements of the five steps above and you have paid Social Security taxes, it is worth beginning the process of applying for Social Security disability benefits.
Additional information about qualifying for New Jersey Social Security disability
My 100+ page website will provide many answers to your Social Security disability questions, including the below questions: “Should I apply for New Jersey disability benefits?” and “What should I do if I receive a denial of my initial application or a denial of my request for reconsideration?” I am also happy to personally answer any questions you may have.
Should I apply for New Jersey disability benefits?
What should I do if I receive a denial of my initial application or a denial of my request for reconsideration?
Assistance from an experienced New Jersey disability lawyer representing clients throughout Northern New Jersey and the surrounding areas
I accept New Jersey disability claims at all stages – whether you are thinking about applying for Social Security disability, have had your application denied, or have had your request for reconsideration denied. For Social Security disability, only approximately 35% of all initial applications are approved and about 15% of all requests for reconsideration are approved. However, 55% of claims are approved when the reconsideration denial is appealed for a hearing before an administrative law judge.
While I accept claims at all stages, I will sometimes advise claimants to file their initial applications for disability benefits by themselves, and if they are denied, I will begin representation by helping them file their appeal or at their hearing. When applying for New Jersey disability benefits, there are many forms that must be completed in addition to the initial application. For more information about what the Social Security Administration is looking for before awarding disability benefits, see 9 Tips for Applying.
If your application for Social Security disability benefits is denied, my representation includes assisting with and completing the various appeal forms and appearing with you to present your claim to the Social Security judge. For your hearing, I will also gather and assemble all the necessary evidence, prepare you and the witnesses, and represent you at the hearing.
My experience handling Social Security disability cases has provided me with insight into what the Social Security Administration needs to find you disabled. One frequent issue is that the Social Security Administration did not receive from your treating physician all the medical information it needed to make its disability determination. I will work with you in obtaining that needed medical documentation. In addition, I learned how to capably read medical records from my past experience as a pharmacy technician in a teaching hospital. This skill helps me find deficiencies in your medical records and helps me obtain the evidence necessary to present the full picture to the Social Security Administration.
How to contact the Law Office of Maryjean Ellis, LLC
Though the disability evaluation process can sometimes be complex and lengthy, the question in front of you or any New Jersey disability claimant is a simple one: “Do you believe you are unable to work?” If so, I recommend you seek Social Security disability with assistance from an experienced New Jersey disability lawyer. Dealing with a large government bureaucracy like the Social Security Administration can feel challenging because of the number of rules to follow and the processes can be complicated. But I will always explain the Social Security disability process to you, and I will guide you through the often confusing application and appeal process.
I hope you find my disability website helpful. If you live in Northern New Jersey or its surrounding areas and want assistance with your application for Social Security disability benefits or appealing a denial, I can help. Please provide a brief description of your claim using the short claim evaluation form on the left side of this page, and I will respond promptly. Or if you have any questions, please call me at (973) 726-9674. I am happy to personally answer any questions you may have.
Law Office of Maryjean Ellis, LLC
235 Woodport Road
Sparta, New Jersey 07871
Representing Social Security disability claimants throughout Northern New Jersey and the surrounding areas.