Overview of Disability
Disability Back Pay
Requirements for Disability
Applications for disability
Tips and Advice for Disability Claims
How long does Disability take?
Winning Disability Benefits
Common Mistakes after a Denial
Mental Disability Benefits
Denials for Disability
Appeals for denied claims
Disability Benefits from SSA
Child Disability Benefits
Qualifications and How to Qualify
Working and Disability
Disability Awards and Notices
Disability Lawyers, Hiring Attorneys
Social Security List of Conditions
What Social Security considers disabling
Medical Evidence and Disability
Filing for Disability Benefits
Eligibility for Disability Benefits
SSD SSI Definitions
SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
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What is the Social Security definition of disability?
Social Security disability (and SSI for that matter also) is a total disability program, not a short term or temporary disability program. This sets social security apart from veterans benefits which are often awarded on the basis of percentages. Social security disability and SSI benefits are given when the condition is 100 percent disabling, and not any less, according to the definition of disability used by SSA (social security administration).
SSD and SSI are also not awarded on the basis of a condition that is temporarily disabling. In fact, the medical records must clearly show that you will be disabled for a minimum of one year and future evaluations will be done periodically after you are approved to determine if your condition or conditions still satisfy the program requirements.
To qualify for disability benefits under either program will mean that your physical or mental condition, or combination of various conditions, satisfies the definition of disability used by the social security administration. What is the definition of disability and how does a case satisfy it?
The definition of disability states that an individual must have a severe impairment that has either lasted, or can be expected to last, for a minimum of one year.
The condition must be severe enough that it prevents the individual from engaging in what is referred to as SGA.
Substantial and gainful activity, or SGA, happens when a person is working and earning a certain level of income that the social security administration considers to be clear evidence of non-disability.
In other words, if you can work and earn the SGA earnings amount, or limit, then you are not disabled. If your condition prevents you from working and earning this amount or more, then you may be considered disabled (to see the current SGA limit: The most you can earn while receiving disability benefits).
Obviously, the SSA definition of disability does not bar work activity, which is a common mistaken assumption. A claimant can work while filing for disability, or even work while receiving disability benefits. The issue is how much the person can work, which is measured by how much they are able to earn.
Granted, this system is not perfect at measuring who is disabled and who is not since an individual who is receiving disability benefits can simply watch their earnings to make sure that they do not go over the monthly gross earned income limit.
However, thus far, this is the best method that the social security administration has come up with. It also, of course, ensures a certain amount of fairness since it allows disability beneficiaries to still work and receive a small amount of earned income without necessarily disqualifying them from receiving disability benefits. Even individuals with high earnings records still do not receive exorbitant disability benefit checks and, for this reason, many beneficiaries attempt to supplement their benefit checks with part-time work.
How do you prove disability? Or, rather, what must a disability examiner or an administrative law judge see in the evidence of the case--which includes both medical records and information concerning the claimant's vocational work history--in order to approve a person for benefits? (note: examiners make decisions on disability claims which are pending at the disability application or reconsideration appeal levels, and administrative law judges make decisions on claims that are at the hearing levels).
Disability cases that are not approved on the basis of meeting a listing (meaning that you have a physical or mental condition that is contained in the social security disability list of impairments and meet all the necessary listing requirements) will be evaluated under a five step process that takes into consideration what the claimant's functional limitations are and their relative ability to engage in work activity.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions
What is the Social Security definition of disability?
How does social security define disability?
What does social security mean by disability, i.e. what is the definition?
What does the social security administration definition of disability actually say?
What is a disability according to the Social Security Administration?
Why is the Social Security Administration definition of disability so strict?
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