Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Disability Requirements

Disability Applications

Disability Advice Tips

How long do cases take?

How to win Disability

SSD Mistakes to avoid

Disability for Mental

What if you get denied?

How to file Appeals

Disability through SSA

SSI Disability Benefits

Disability for Children

How do I qualify for it?

Working and Disability

Disability Award Notice

Disability Lawyer Q&A

Disability Conditions List

What is a disability?

Your Medical Evidence

Filing for your Disability

Disability Eligibility

SSD SSI Definitions

Recent Questions

SSDRC Disability Blog

How Disabled Do You Have To Be To Collect Social Security Disability or SSI?

Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income disability (SSI) are considered total disability programs.

Having said that, it does not mean an individual can have no earnings to collect disability from one of the Social Security administration's disability programs. The Social Security definition of disability states that a condition is disabling if it is a medically determinable physical impairment or mental impairment that has prevented an individual from performing substantial gainful activity (SGA) for twelve continuous months; is expected to prevent an individual from performing SGA for twelve continuous months; or is expected to result in death.

So what is substantial gainful activity and how does it affect an individualís ability to collect disability? SGA is a monthly earnings amount that Social Security considers self-supporting and if an individual is earning over the SGA monthly amount their disability claim will be denied prior to being sent for a medical decision.

Each year, Social Security determines what the monthly SGA amount will be, so if an individual is planning on filing for disability and they are working they should check with Social Security to determine if their earnings are too high.

Social Security differentiates their disability program from other disability programs such as VA disability, short term, or even long term disability in that it does not consider partial disability (as in VA disability) or being disabled from a certain job (as in long or short disability) as being disabled for Social Security purposes.

Individuals who apply for disability with Social Security must go through a five-step sequential evaluation process that determines:

A) If an individual is performing SGA level work activity;

B) If they have a medically determinable mental or medical condition;

C) What the severity of their condition is;

D) If this condition prevents the individual from working at any of their relevant past work or doing any other type of work as it is performed in the general economy considering the limitations of their disabling condition or conditions. Note: for past work to be considered by social security to be "relevant" and possibly a job that a person can return to, it must have been done sometime in the last 15 years for three months or longer while earning at least the SGA earnings amount.

Essentially, to be considered disabled by the social security administration, an individual must have a condition that is severe enough that they cannot work for twelve months or longer (at one of their former jobs, or doing any kind of other work that their skills and education might suit them for) while earning at least the SGA earnings amount.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

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?

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | 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 | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

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
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