To get a Social Security Disability or SSI Award do you have to have a Permanent Disability?

For the social security administration to award you benefits under the SSDI (Social Security Disability insurance) or SSI (supplemental security income) programs, your disabling condition must be considered a total disability, meaning that it must result in your condition satisfying the Social Security definition of disability.

How do you satisfy this definition? Your condition must be severe enough that it results in enough physical and/or mental limitations that you are subsequently unable to enage in work activity that earns you what SSA refers to as "substantial gainful activity".

Click to view the current: SGA earnings limit.

What types of physical and mental limitations are we referring to? In a general sense, we mean functional limitations that force a reduction in your ability to engage in normal ADLs, or activities of daily living. More specifically, however, social security will look at your ability to potentially do any of the past jobs you might have held within the past fifteen years, as long as you did the job long enough to have learned and retained the skills that are particular to that job.

If the determination is made that you cannot do any of these jobs, there is the possibility that you may find yourself qualifying for disability. However, the inability to return to past work is just the first hurdle to clear. If you cannot do your past work, you must then be found to be unable to use your education and training to do some type of other work.

The inability to do your past work and any other work while earning a substantial and gainful income are what constitutes eligibility for disability benefits from the social security administration.

However, in addition to satisfying these particular disability requirements and criteria, a claimant's disabling condition must also be considered to be one that is long-standing and practically permanent. It is for this reason that qualifying for disability means having a condition that renders a person unable to work and earn a substantial and gainful income (in the performance of a job they have done in the past, or in the performance of some type of other work that they might be able to switch to based on their vocational profile) for one full year or longer.

The durational requirement of the social security administration definition of disability means that unless a disabling condition has this impact on a person's ability to work for at least 12 months, they cannot be considered fully disabled. Moreover, as far as SSA is concerned, having a condition last this long is indicative of the probability that the condition will be permanent, or, at the very least, will last for years.

Social Security will periodically review a claimant who has been approved for disability. However, a disability review will typically occur only every few years (for most claimants, reviews will initially be set for every three or seven years, but after the first review is conducted, the majority of claims will ordinarily be reviewed only once every seven years, if even this often).

Will a claimant stand a high chance of having their benefits stopped if their disability case is reviewed? No, most claimants who have received a Social Security Disability award or SSI award will have their benefits continued after a review is conducted. This is because disability benefits cannot be ceased unless the medical evidence that is gathered in a review shows that medical improvement has taken place, and this is very difficult to prove in the majority of all cases.

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.

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