Will the severity of a condition determine if you can get approved for disability?

In a prior post, I mentioned an online discussion that I took part in. One of the participants in the discussion was from England and one of his questions about the U.S. disability system was this: "Surely the help that people are entitled to depends on the severity of the condition?"


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And the answer to the question is Yes. In the U.S. disability system (the Social Security Disability and SSI programs), the primary factor that determines whether or not an individual will receive disability benefits is severity. In other words, the name of a diagnosed condition is not the preeminent factor. What is more important is the severity of the condition (which can be physical or mental) and how it affects the individual.

For Social Security Disability and SSI, how a condition affects an individual is referred to in terms of residual functional capacity (which simply means "what a person can still do even with their condition").

To distill this in the simplest terms, the disability system works like this---To be approved for disability benefits, a person must have a severe condition that prevents them from engaging in past work (one of the jobs they've done in the past) and also prevents them from engaging in a form of other work for a period of at least twelve months. This is how severity is measured and this is how a state of disability is determined by the social security administration.

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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