Disability NOT Diagnosis


by Cari M. Schwartz and Megan F. DiTolla

People often have the misconception that disability entitlement is based on a diagnosis. This is not the case. While the Social Security Administration ("Administration") requires that an individual have a severe medically determinable impairment, what is most important is the limitations that an impairment imposes.

The Administration recognizes that Parkinsonian Syndrome is degenerative and progressive in nature. However, they also recognize that many people who have Parkinsonian Syndrome do work and can maintain a work schedule for many years following a diagnosis. The Administration must determine at what point a person becomes vocationally disabled. Essentially, the Administration will grant benefits when an individual is unable to complete a normal work week due to his/her symptoms.

The Administration uses many tools to make such a determination. First, they will examine a claimant's medical records for clinical and laboratory evidence indicating disability. The Administration will see if the records indicate rigidity or tremors which interfere with fine and gross manipulation or gait and station. They may also look to see if there are any cognitive impairments evidenced in the medical documentation. Second, the Administration may request an opinion from a treating physician as to an individual's limitations and capabilities. Third, the Administration, at their own initiative and cost, may send an individual to a consultative examination with a doctor for an evaluation of limitations. Finally, the Administration may solicit the help of a vocation expert to determine whether an individual can maintain employment in spite of his/her limitations. This is just some of the analysis that goes into determining whether an individual is capable of working. However, it is illustrative of the Administration's reliance on limitations, opposed to a diagnosis, in determining disability. While the diagnosis is important, a diagnosis alone will not entitle a person to disability benefits

Attorneys Cari M. Schwartz and Megan F. DiTolla have 10 years experience handling SSDI claims at all levels of the administrative and judicial process. Co-founders of West Coast Disability Law Group, LLP, which provides legal services for the disabled, but also focuses on community outreach and education, they have conducted over 1,700 Social Security Disability benefit and Supplemental Security Income hearings before Administrative Law Judges all over the United States. To contact Cari or Megan, call (800) 459- 3017, or e-mail them at info@westcoastdisability.com.


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