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What is disability onset and how is it determined?

Many of those who receive benefits would be unable to survive without them, highlighting just how important this program can be for those who are suddenly left unable to work. Yet, recovering Social Security Disability benefits through the system is not always the easiest thing to do. In fact, many initial claims are denied, and even when claims are accepted, whether initially or on appeal, certain evidence can make a significant difference on an individual's benefit amount and the length of his or her benefits.

One of these elements is the disability onset date. Legally speaking, a disability is onset the day that the illness or medical condition first fits the definition of a disability. But that is not always really clear. So, to help determine this, the Social Security Administration looks at evidence surrounding the disability.

For example, an individual's allegations regarding the disability will be assessed, the claimant's work history, particularly when he or she quit working, will be analyzed and the disabled individual's medical records may be scrutinized.

Why is this important? Because the earlier the onset date is the earlier an individual's benefits may apply. This means that hundreds, perhaps even thousands of dollars could be lost if an onset date is found to be much later than anticipated. Therefore, it is critical that those who have suffered a disability that they think qualifies them for SSD file a claim as soon as possible.

Those who are unsure of whether or not they qualify, or how to handle the allegation and onset date, may want to think about discussing the matter with an attorney who can be by their side throughout the process. An attorney can help assess a claim, represent an individual's best interests and fight to show that a disability exists and that its sufferer deserves compensation. When it comes to this difficult process, having a helping, knowledgeable hand on one's side may make all the difference.

Source: Social Security Administration, "SSR 83-20: Titles II and XVI: Onset of Disability," accessed Sep. 28, 2015

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