What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
How do you Win Benefits under Social Security Disability or SSI?
If I am determined disabled, how far back will Social Security pay benefits?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?
What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Winning Disability Benefits
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Denial of Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits
How to File for Disability - Tips for Filing
If You Get Approved For SSDI Will You Also Get Medicare?
How much does a Social Security disability attorney get paid?
Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
Answers to questions about SSD and SSI disability
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
Social Security Disability, SSI Disability - Terms, Definitions, Concepts
Inability to Work and Eligibility for Social Security Disability and SSI Benefits
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
Inability to work is a phrase that comes up frequently on this website simply because this is one of the main tenets of the definition of disability used by SSA (the social security administration).
To qualify for disability benefits and prove one's eligibility to receive either social security disability or SSI benefits, it must be shown that there exists an inability to work at what is known as the SGA, or substantial gainful activitity level.
Being unable to work at the SGA level means two things:
1) A person can work while filing for disability or receiving disability.
2) A person cannot work and earn more than a certain amount each month while they are filing for disability or receiving disability. This amount, or limit on monthly earnings, is the SGA amount.
How is it determined that a person who is filing for disability possesses an ability to work at this earnings level? There are two ways of proving this on a disability case. The first is that by the time the individual decides to apply for disability they have already been out of work for at least 12 months. Twelve months is the duration used by SSA to determine whether or not a person is actually disabled.
In other words, if their mental or physical condition, or a combination of both physical or mental conditions, is severe enough to prevent them from being able to work and earn an income that is at least equal to the SGA earnings limit that is set in place for a given year, and this situation persists for at least 12 months, then SSA will consider them disabled as long as their case also satisfies the non-medical requirements and qualifying criteria for the disability program under which they have filed.
For social security disability, non-medical disability criteria would mean being insured and eligible to receive SSD benefits in the first place. And for SSI disability, non-medical criteria would mean not having more than the limit on allowable assets since SSI has an asset limit. Note: SSD does not have an asset, or resource limit, and SSI does because SSI need-based and is intended for individuals who do not have enough work credits to qualify for disability in the social security disability program.
What if you have not been out of work for a full 12 months by the time you apply for disability? This is not an issue. In fact, a large percentage of claimants have not been out of work for this length of time due to their medical condition by the time they contact social security to file a claim. And many applicants have only just recently stopped working when their claim is started.
What social security will do in such cases (actually, this will be done by the disability examiner who works on processing the claim) is A) review the medical records, B) decide to what extent the person is limited, C) determine whether or not they are currently unable to work at one of their past jobs or at some type of other work that uses their education and skills, and then D) make a projection as to whether or not their state of disability will last at least 12 months.
If the projection can be made that their condition will be found to satisfy the 12 month duration requirement for social security disability or SSI eligibility, they will qualify for disability benefits. If not, they will be given a durational denial of their disability claim.
Eligibility for disability benefits is based on the inability to work at a certain earnings level (SGA) for at least 12 months. Does the social security administration automatically assume that a person is disabled for life if they are unable to work and earn a substantial and gainful income for at least 12 months? No. SSA simply concludes that the person has satisfied the social security definition of disability and, as such, is completely and totally disabled. To test whether or not the person will continue to be disabled, SSA will periodically (every few years) review the individual's claim through something known as a continuing disability review, or CDR. Note: most individuals who go through a CDR evaluation have their benefits continued because it is usually very difficult for the social security administration to prove that the person has had medical improvement in their situation.
Return to: SSDRC, or the Questions, Answers, Tips, and Advice page
Topics and Questions
SSD and SSI are Federal Programs
The title II Social Security Disability and title 16 SSI Disability programs operate under federal guidelines and, therefore, the program requirements--medical and non-medical--apply to all states:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Recent approval and denial statistics for various states can be viewed here:
Social Security Disability, SSI Approval and Denial Statistics by state
Special Section: Disability Lawyers and unnecessary claim denials