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.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

Most popular topics on

Social Security Disability in North Carolina

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Tips to Prepare for Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI

Advice to Win SSD and SSI Benefit Claims

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

Related pages:

Denied Social Security Disability Appeal
Getting Disability and Trying to work
How many times can I appeal my Social Security Disability or SSI?
If Am Medically Disabled, Can Social Security Still Turn Me Down for Disability for Some Reason?
How will Social Security find you disabled?
When is a Person Considered Fully Disabled by Social Security?
Being Determined Medically Disabled for Social Security Disability
How Does Social Security Decide If You Are Disabled Or Not?
What makes you disabled for SSD, Social Security Disability Benefits, OR SSI?
How Disabled Must You be to get Social Security Disability Approved?
How Disabled Do You Have To Be To Collect Social Security Disability or SSI?
If I apply for disability and my doctor says I am disabled, is there a waiting period to receive benefits?
Getting a Disability Lawyer in Pennsylvania
If you apply for disability in Pennsylvania
Will I qualify for disability Benefits in Pennsylvania?