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

"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.

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:

Disability determination services in North Carolina
What is the Social Security definition of disability?
How does social security define disability?
What does social security mean by disability, i.e. what is the definition?
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?
Can a college student get benefits if their parent gets Disability?
Does SSA consider my entire work history or just recent work history?
Will I qualify for disability Benefits in Minnesota?
If you apply for disability in Minnesota