Social Security Disability Resource Center

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Why is the Social Security Administration definition of disability so strict?

What does the social security definition of disability actually say? Basically, that you must have a condition, physical and/or mental, this is severe enough to last at least one full year, and severe enough to prevent you from engaging in work activity at a level at which you can earn a substantial and gainful income (known as SGA). This includes working at a job you have done in the past, or working at any other type of job for which you might be suited based on your functional capacity, education, work skills, and how old you are.

At the outset, it might not seem as though this definition is particularly harsh. However, when you look at the actual outcomes of cases, it would be difficult to argue that the social security definition of disability is not strict. After all, the majority of applicants for benefits are usually denied and for those who decide to file appeals (almost always the best route to take, as opposed to giving up or starting over with a new application), it can take years before disability benefits are awarded.

Here's what the social security administration has to say about the definition of disability that is used by the SSD and SSI programs and why it is as strict as it is:

"The disability programs are designed to provide long-term protection to individuals who are totally disabled, using Social Security criteria, and unable to do any kind of work in the national economy (or, for children, if their impairment or combination of impairments does result in marked and severe functional limitations). This is the most difficult type of disability to protect against, and most people and their employers cannot afford to protect against this risk through other means. Short-term disability can be provided for through other means; e.g., workers' compensation, insurance, family, savings and investments."

Things to take away from this explanation of the definition of disability are:

1.The social security administration provides benefits on the basis of total disability. Partial disability, such as can be found in the VA disability program, is not part of the equation.

2. The social security administration builds into their thought process the notion that a person seeking disability benefits will have access to some other type of program such as short term disability benefits or insurance, or savings and investments.

Item 2, of course, is interesting because it reflects A) the fact that SSA requires that a person's disabling condition be long-lasting, B) that SSA has no problem with a claimant going broke as a result of an inability to work, and C) that SSA assumes that disabled individuals have access to short term disability insurance benefits.

Note: The social security administration does not even provide short term disability benefits to its own employees.

  • 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

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    Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center

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    Related pages:

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    How does social security define disability?
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    What does the social security administration definition of disability actually say?
    What is a disability according to the Social Security Administration?
    Why is the Social Security Administration definition of disability so strict?
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    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