How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

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 individual’s 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.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

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?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

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?
Qualifying for disability in California
How do I apply for disability in Benefits in California
Applying for Disability in California
If I apply for disability and my doctor says I am disabled, is there a waiting period?

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

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?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.