Social Security Disability: What are the Rules?

People often want to know how the Social Security Administration (SSA) makes a determination of disability. As you might expect, there are a ton of regulations and other documents that influence how the determination is made. There are at least 4 major publications that affect virtually every disability claim, some more than others.


First, there are the regulations, these are found in the Code of Federal Regulations. These set forth the primary “law” that will be applied in the case. These Regulations set forth financial eligibility rules, the five-step disability evaluation process, appeal rights, evidentiary matters, and much more.

Second, the SSA and its employees adhere to the Program Operations Manual System (POMS). POMS provides guidance to multiple levels of employees at SSA who handle your claim, starting with the filing of the claim. POMS discusses, among many other things, how to process an application, the interview process, representative payees, notice policies, etc.

Third, on appeal, and particularly at your hearing and appeals following the hearing, SSA and its judges and adjudicators follow a Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law Manual (HALLEX). HALLEX governs how the Judge will conduct your hearing, how a request for review is made, how claims can be reopened on appeal, etc.

Finally, the SSA publishes its own internal directives, called Social Security Rulings (SSRs), that give guidance and interpretation to all of these other parts of your disability claim with a particular focus on the Regulations. In essence, the SSRs give focused guidance on the SSA’s position on how it will handle and process such claims and the law it will apply.

Not surprisingly, all of this can make the process quite confusing to most disability claimants. Even for the most experienced social security disability lawyer, keeping abreast of all of these publications and their many meanings, directives and interpretations, not to mention frequent changes, additions, and deletions, can be quite challenging.

If you are filing a disability claim, this is just one more reason why you need to get help from an experienced social security disability lawyer. Contact the Pennsylvania social security disability lawyers today for help.