Social Security Disability Resource Center

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Requirements | How long it takes | Back Pay
Mental Disability | What is a disability? | Tips
SSI Benefits | How to Win | Disability Awards
Hearings | Appeals | List of Disabling Conditions

What does SSA consider a severe impairment for Social Security Disability or SSI Disability Benefits?

Disability examiners (the individuals who make decisions on social security disability and SSI disability claims) have to discern, when they look at a disability application, a number of things. One of those things is whether or not the claimant's condition (which may be mental, physical, or a combination of conditions) is severe.

What is severe according to the social security administration? Disability examiners actually get very little guidance on what is "severe". Obviously, for the purposes of awarding disability benefits, a sprained ankle or a minor cut is not severe, while a broken limb may potentially be severe is the limb does not heal satisfactorily. Because the word "severe" tends to be subjective, as in "many people disagree on what constitutes severe", the social security administration spends more time instead defining what is...not severe.

For SSA, a mental or physical impairment is not severe if it only results in a minimal inability to work and earn a substantial, gainful income. For children's cases, a mental or physical impairment is not severe if it only results in a minimal inability to engage in age-appropriate activities such as academic endeavors.

Most applicants who file for disability do, in fact, have at least one severe impairment. This is because the great majority of disability claimants only file a claim when their condition has become severe enough to affect their ability to work.

And, in the case of parents filing on behalf of their children, claims are usually filed when a child exhibits physical deficits (asthma, adhd, seizures) or social or cognitive deficits that are often evidenced in a school environment. The question, therefore, for disability examiners and disability judges, is whether a condition has become severe enough to put a significant burden on one's ability to work or, for children, engage in age-appropriate activities.

"How severe" a condition is can only be proven through evidence that is obtained by the social security administration, whether that evidence consists of medical records, academic records, letters from doctors, or special examinations that have been scheduled for a claimant by the social security administration. For this reason, one of the most important things a claimant can do is to always supply a detailed list of treatment sources when filing a claim for disability.

Yet, despite the obviousness of this, many claimants, when they visit a local social security office, do not supply complete information. Sometimes, they leave many of their doctors off the disability application report form. And, amazingly, sometimes claimants fail to list entire conditions that they are afflicted with.

In some cases, this may be because the claimant mistakenly assumes that social security can magically "look up" any information that pertains to their condition. However, records can only be gathered from medical treatment sources that SSA is made aware of. And for this reason claimants should supply as much information as possible when they apply for disability benefits.

  • What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

  • What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

  • Which conditions will social security recognize as a disability?

  • Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

  • SSDRC Homepage:

    Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center

    The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work

    Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

    Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    More Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    Common Questions about Social Security Disability and SSI

    Winning Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    The SSI Disability Benefits Program

    Medical exams for disability claims

    Applying for Disability in various states

    Social Security Disability SSI and Doctors - Yours and Theirs

    Social Security Disability and SSI Claim Reviews

    Social Security Disability SSI System and Benefits for Children

    Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative

    What you should know about Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

    Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney

    Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits

    FAQ on Disability Claim Representation

    Disability hearings before Judges

    Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers

    Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits

    Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability

    Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits for Children

    Disability Benefits through Social Security

    Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records

    Filing your claim for disability benefits

    Eligibility for receiving disability benefits

    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

    Resources on this site

    Social Security Disability, SSI Terms and Definitions

    Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

    For Individuals living in North Carolina

    Applying for Disability in North Carolina

    North Carolina Disability Lawyer

    Related pages:

    When to Appeal a Disability Denial
    How do I stay eligible to keep getting my disability benefits?
    Does Social Security send you to a MRI or CT scan?
    What does the Severity of your impairment have to do with Your Disability Claim?
    What does SSA consider a severe impairment for Social Security Disability or SSI Disability Benefits?
    What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
    How Will Social Security Disability or SSI Look At My Case If I have More Than One Disabling Condition?
    Social Security Disability Approvals - Medical Conditions and Getting Approved
    How many Social Security disability cases are approved for back pain?
    Will I qualify for disability due to back pain, a bone spur, and bulging discs?
    Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
    Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?
    If you have had a heart attack will you qualify for Social Security disability?
    How does Social Security consider lupus as a disability?
    s Bipolar Disorder a disability according to Social Security?
    Is multiple sclerosis considered a disability by Social Security?

    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