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
Ask a question, get an answer
What does social security mean by disability, i.e. what is the definition?
The definition of disability used by the Social Security Administration is different from what many applicants and potential applicants might expect. Many individuals mistakenly assume the following:
1. That social security disability and SSI disability provide for temporary disability benefits.
2. That social security disability and SSI disability provide for partial disability benefits.
3. That social security disability and SSI disability are based on a complete inability to work at the individual's last job.
4. That social security disability and SSI disability are based on recommendations from a claimant's physician.
Let's discuss these in order. First of all, the SSD and SSI disability programs do not provide for temporary disability benefits. When a person is approved for disability, the award is granted based on a presumption that the claimant may be permanently disabled. Social Security does have a process for periodically reviewing claims to see if a person remains disabled and, thus, eligible to receive benefits. And this process involves having the claimant go through a CDR, or continuing disability review, every few years. If the review finds that no medical improvement has taken place, the claimant's benefits will be continued. However, even though a review process exists, claims are nonetheless decided on the assumption that a person's state of disability will be long-standing or permanent, and not at all temporary.
Secondly, SSA (the social security administration) does not award claims on the basis of partial disability. That is, if a person loses the use of a limb or an eye, they cannot be approved for benefits on the basis of this alone. They also cannot be approved for a percentage loss of use of a limb, or an eye, or an ear, etc.
Thirdly, SSA does not make decisions on the basis of whether or not a claimant is unable to do their past job. Past work does play a role. However, individuals who are found to be unable to go back to a past job may still be denied on the basis that they can can do something else.
Fourth and finally, SSA does not make decisions based solely on what a person's treating physician has to say about their condition. A medical source statement from a doctor that has a history of providing treatment (i.e. a treating physician) can provide a basis for the approval of a claim. However, this statement must refer to the claimant's remaining level of function (their residual functional capacity, or RFC) and it must also be supported by the physician's own record of treatment.
If a doctor supplies a statement that their patient is totally disabled, but the statement does not provide any information regarding their patient's limitations, then the statement will be practically useless. By the same token, if a doctor provides a detailed statement that supports their patient's claim for disability but this statement is in contradiction to the physician's own treatment notes, then the statement may not be regarded as valid and may be rejected.
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