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

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.

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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