There are three pieces of advice I give to participants who ask me about Social Security Disability (SSD) awards. To begin with, you are in control of a lot of the factors that can lead to a positive or negative determination. You are also in control of those elements that can slow down or speed up their decision process. Therefore, if considering applying for an SSD award, it is important that you understand the criteria and process that the Social Security Administration will utilize to make their determination.

Secondly, make certain your documentation is in order. This includes informing your treating medical professional(s) that you have applied for an SSD award and that you would appreciate their cooperation in expediting the issuance of your medical records when asked by the requesting state agency.

Finally, cut the interview and review process down by completing both the application and disability report on-line. Oh, I usually also recommend spending some time on the retirement calculator and reviewing both the Pension Plan and Health and Benefit Plan’s SPDs to see how an award will affect those benefits. (Depending on your point of view, all that can be fun & enlightening or not. Your choice. But we can’t learn that for you!)


Whether or not the SSA grants a disability award is determined by your age, education, work experience, and what your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) score is. The latter of which determines whether or not the applicant’s medical issue allows the applicant to perform any of the types of work that the applicant has performed in the past fifteen (15) years and/or what is the most that individual can do in a full-time work setting despite their medical problem.

Once that is determined, the SSA will ask if the applicant is still working. No? Yes? Either way, the medical documentation that was provided by your treating medical professionals must show a severe impairment or at least one that impacts work function.

Regarding that, and this is important, be advised that the listed impairment must meet or equal the SSA list of severe medical conditions that the SSA has previously determined as award worthy. If that is met, then yay! The award will be given.

Conversely, if that criterion is not met, then the applicant’s RFC score comes into play. If you can perform any of the types of work that you have been performing in the past fifteen (15) years, and/or perform full-time work despite your disability, then a disability award will most likely not be granted.

That’s it. We’ve pulled away the curtain and that is all there is too it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Moreover, neither fear nor be intimidated by the process or the stories you have heard.