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

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.

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

Related pages:

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?

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.

Do I need an attorney to win disability?
How Long Does It Take To Go Before A Judge For Disability?
Will a Judge give you an Immediate Decision at the Disability Hearing?
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?
The Social Security Disability Award Letter
Social Security Disability SSI Eligibility Requirements
How Many Times Will you be denied before You Get Approved for Disability?
What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?
How to Prove disability and qualify to win benefits
How to speed up the disability process
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes
What should you say if you go to a Social Security Exam?
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?