Social Security Disability Definitions
Social Security Disability and SSI Overview
The Requirements for Disability
Social Security Disability and SSI Applications
Tips and Advice for Disability Claims
How long does Disability take?
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Disability Denial
Disability Denials and Filing Appeals
Social Security Mental Disability Benefits
Disability Benefits offered through Social Security
Benefits through SSI disability
Disability Benefits for Children
Disability Qualifications and How to Qualify
Social Security Disability and Working
Winning your Disability Benefits
Social Security Back Pay and the disability award notice
Disability Lawyers and Hiring an Attorney
Social Security Disability SSI List of Conditions
What is considered a Disabling condition by Social Security?
Social Security Disability SSI and Medical Evidence
Filing for Disability Benefits
Eligibility for Disability Benefits
SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
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How Disabled Must You be to get Social Security Disability Approved?
In order to qualify for disability benefits, you must be impaired to the extent that you are unable to earn the substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount each month, for a period of not less than one year.
The SGA amount is determined each year by the Social Security Administration, and if you are able to earn at least this amount or more, you will not qualify for disability benefits regardless of your level of disability.
Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are not awarded on the basis of the severity of the impairment alone. Rather, disability benefits are awarded to those who are unable to perform substantial, gainful work as a result of limitations placed upon them by their symptoms.
There is no condition that guarantees disability approval. For adults, the standard of proof is medical documentation of a physical or mental impairment that prevents them from performing any job they have held in the past 15 years, or any other job that someone of their age, educational background, work skills, and of course physical or mental limitations could perform.
For children, the standard of proof is medical and educational documentation that indicates they are not able to function at the same academic or social level as their peers.
So, when applying for disability, the question is not simply how disabled you are, but how your disability limits your ability to function at work, at home, or if you are a child, in an educational environment.
In addition, the appearance of disability is not always a good indicator of how impaired a person truly is. Many mental disorders remain largely hidden; even schizophrenia symptoms can often be controlled to some extent with medication. However, this is a far cry from assuming that someone with schizophrenia is capable of holding gainful employment.
In other disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, asthma, manic depression, etc., symptoms can be subject to flare-ups or cyclical in nature. Again, even if the level of disability is not constant, Social Security does not measure one’s level of impairment by the appearance of disability, but by what medical records indicate about this individual’s ability to function.
Vocational placement is just as much a part of a disability examiner or judge’s decision-making process as any medical limitations a claimant has, which is why people who are younger, have more education, work skills, etc., are less likely to be awarded disability and more likely to be denied on the basis that it is easier for them to switch jobs or be trained to perform some other type of work.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions
Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:
Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI
These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.
Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria