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

What does the Social Security Administration mean by the term "disability"?

A person is disabled under SSDI or SSI in one of the following situations: 1) They have a condition that meets the criteria in something known as the blue book disability listings or 2) a review of their job skills, age, and education, and medical records shows that they cannot do their past work and cannot do other work.

Any, I repeat, any medical condition can potentially result in getting approved for disability. That is because SSA is not focused on having a particular diagnosed condition, but, instead, focuses on the severity of the condition, i.e. does it cause physical or mental limitations that reduce your ability to perform work activity?

The actual definition of disability states you must have a serious medical impairment that is serious enough to keep you from working and earning a substantial and gainful income for at least one year.

Mind you, the SSA definition of disability does not say that you have to be out of work for a year before you apply and potentially get approved for disability benefits. It says that your condition must be severe enough to keep you from working and earning a certain level of income for at least a year. And…that amount of time does not have to pass by before you actually file your claim.

More on What is considered a disability by Social Security?

What is the level of income we are talking about? It is referred to as SGA, or substantial gainful activity. It is an income limit that a person has to be under in order to be considered eligible to receive disability.

How does a person prove that their case meets the Social Security definition of disability, and how do they win?

The truth is, most cases will be denied at the application level. Nationally, it is thought that 77 percent of all applications for disability are denied. Meaning that 23 percent are approved. In North Carolina, for example, historically it has been true that about 30 percent of claims are approved, which may be significantly higher than the current national average.

A person who is denied on their initial claim, but still ultimately wins, will typically be the person who 1) does not give up on their claim, 2) appeals when the case is denied, 3) pursues their claim to the level of an ALJ (administrative law judge) disability hearing, and 4) most importantly, makes sure that the case is well-prepared and properly presented to the judge at the hearing.

At the hearing level, federal Social Security judges usually give much more consideration to statements provided by disability attorneys and representatives. And this is why representatives make a strong effort to obtain such statements from a claimant's treating physician.

Also, while at the disability application and reconsideration levels, all of the evidence gathering is done by disability examiners, at the hearing level a represented claimant will be responsible (meaning their representative will be responsible) for gathering all of a claimant's updated medical records and submitting this information to the judge in the case.

Most importantly, though, at a hearing the primary difference will be that, unlike a disability application or reconsideration appeal, a claimant and their representative will actually appear before the decision-maker (the judge) and present a case for approval. At the first two levels of the system, this is not possible. Claimants are simply reduced to being case files and, no doubt, this makes it easier for their cases to be casually denied.

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:

How long does it take to file for disability?
How much does Social Security permanent disability pay?
How much back pay will I get for SSI?
How to get approved for disability, SSDI, SSI
Improving the chances to get approved for disability
Will I be approved for disability on my appeal?
How long will it take to be approved for SSD or SSI?
Does Social Security approve a disability application the first time?
What you should know about social security attorneys
Will I be approved for disability without a hearing?

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

What happens when you go to a disability hearing?
Social Security Disability SSI and Medical conditions
Social Security Disability lawyer fee
Can a lawyer or attorney speed up my disability case?
When can I expect my first disability check and my back pay check?
Going to a medical exam for Social Security Disability or SSI
Filing for disability - How to file the disability application
Do you need a lawyer to file for disability?
How Far Back Can SSI Back Pay Be Paid?
Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
Maximum back pay you can get from Social Security Disability or SSI
How to qualify for disability
What is the Social Security Disability List of Impairments?
What is considered a disability by Social Security?
How Long Does A Social Security Disability Appeal Take?
How does back pay for Social Security Disability work?
Your Social Security Disability Status
How do you find out if a disability claim has been approved or denied?
How to check Social Security Disability Status
Applying for disability, what medical conditions can you apply for?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
How much does disability pay?
Can I get permanent Social Security Disability or SSI?
How long will it take to get a disability decision letter?
Social Security Disability and SSI Medical Exams
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security Disability?
How Long to get a Disability Hearing decision?
How long to get disability benefits after you receive an award notice?
Social Security Disability and Working
What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?
How To Get Disability Through SSDI or SSI Approved
How Much Income Can A Person Earn If He Draws Social Security Disability?
Partial disability benefits from Social Security
Can I Qualify For Disability for Depression?

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.