Social Security disability benefits are available to California residents who have physical or mental disabilities or a combination of disabilities that leave them unable to work for at least a year. Administrators, and in many cases, an administrative law judge, consider work history, vocational capacity and relevant medical information when deciding whether to approve or deny claims.

A person’s vocational capacity is determined by his or her education or specialized training along with his or her work history and medical conditions. If it is determined the claimant cannot work in gainful capacity considering all those factors, and the condition either will or has lasted at least a year, the claim for disability will be approved. Vocational specialists are hired by the Social Security Administration to weigh in on these issues and at the hearing phase, these specialists testify under oath about their opinions. Medical records are collected and reviewed by physicians who have treated the claimant. Doctors are often asked to render opinions about whether a person is disabled, and the SSA considers those opinions if they are consistent with the medical reports. For example, if medical records indicate a person is fit, but the doctor writes a letter in favor of disability, the SSA will give greater weight to the medical records.

Disability lawyers often help people through the process of claim determination. Experienced advocates are familiar with the overall process and help administrative law judges focus on specific medical information. Sometimes doctors experienced in disability determination are consulted for opinions that are then presented to the SSA. This typically does not happen unless a lawyer is involved.

Consulting a qualified disability lawyer can be essential to streamlining the disability process. Experienced professionals can expedite the gathering of information and present a complete picture of a claimant’s disability, which makes a favorable result more likely than when someone does not have counsel.