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 Social Security Disability and SSI benefits are determined

Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI (title 2 benefits administered by the social security administration) is awarded to those whose medical records indicate that they--

1) have a severe physical impairment or severe disabling mental illness;

2) that this impairment is severe enough to prevent them from earning an amount equivalent to SGA, or substantial gainful activity (anyone earning more than this will not satisfy SSA requirements to qualify for disability);


3) that their medical condition is not expected to improve to a non-disabling degree, regardless of treatment, for a period of not less than one year.


1. Being Determined Medically Disabled for Social Security Disability
2. If I Am Determined Disabled, How Far Back Will Social Security Pay?
3. Will The Condition You have Determine How Much You Get For Disability?
4. How does Social Security determine the amount of money you receive on disability?
5. Getting a Social Security Disability Determination After Seeing a Psychologist
6. Who makes the Determination of a Social Security Disability Claim?

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI (title 16 benefits administered by SSA) is awarded to those who can prove these three criteria for disability eligibility and also have assets totaling not more than $2,000. This is because SSI is not a type of disability insurance that a worker has paid into, but rather a program designed to help those in financial need, regardless of their work history.

However, it is important to realize that a large percentage of disability claims are denied, not because the individual was not found to have a severe medical impairment, but because a disability examiner determined that, in spite of the fact that their symptoms prevent them from performing their current job, the applicants are still able to perform some type of gainful employment, or other work.

When listing all types of other work an applicant can perform, a disability examiner can include any job that is available in the country. It doesn’t matter if the job is available in your town, or state, or if your physical or mental or financial situation makes it possible for you to relocate—as long as somewhere out there exists a job for which you may be qualified, a disability examiner can use this as a basis for denial of your claim.

There are some safeguards built into the system that are supposed to provide a measure of fairness to the disability determination process. A claimant’s age, education, and work skills are taken into consideration (in general, those who are older have less employment opportunities, and those who are less educated have less transferable job skills). Another factor that the disability examiner must consider is a claimant’s residual functional capacity (RFC), or what he is still capable of doing in light of his impairment. For instance, diagnosis with a mental impairment that causes symptoms of confusion, fatigue, depression, etc., will further limit one’s employment opportunities (especially given the unfortunate fact that some employers still discriminate against the mentally ill). Likewise, diagnosis with certain physical impairments may make it difficult to perform any job that includes lifting, sitting for long periods of time, climbing stairs, etc.

Despite these safeguards, quite often a disability denial is based on a disability examiner’s decision that the claimant is qualified to perform a job that, for whatever reason, is not a realistic option. There’s not much a claimant can do to avoid this possibility at the initial application stage or even at the first level of appeal (all of those who are denied disability have the right to appeal the decision by filing a request for reconsideration) other than filing a detailed work history specifically listing your job skills and past employment.

However, at the second level of appeal, which is a disability hearing before an administrative law judge, an applicant will have the chance to argue, through their disability attorney or non-attorney representative, that the disability examiner did not fairly or realistically assess their employability. Not surprisingly, it is at this second level of appeal that disability applicants have their best chance of being approved for benefits. As many as 60% of all disability denials are overturned by federal administrative law judges.

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 to file for disability in California
Can you Receive Disability Benefits and have Assets, Investments, a Savings Account?
How many days do you have to file a disability appeal?
What are some Social Security Disability and SSI myths?
What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?
After you file disability forms
How are Are Social Security And Social Security Disability different?
Doing the next disability appeal
Filing for disability with scoliosis
The SSDI SSI disability application, how to file
Working and getting Disability
Contacting Social Security about the status of your disability claim
How to qualify for disability with depression
How to file for disability in Michigan
Filing for disability with MS, multiple Sclerosis
Questions asked at a Social Security Disability or SSI hearing?

These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

How to check the status of my Social Security Disability claim
To qualify for disability, what to prove
Preparation to win a disability hearing
Social Security Disability lawyers FAQ
How Much Income Can you Earn If you draw Social Security Disability?
What does Social Security Disability SSI pay, how much?
Social Security Disability Maximum back pay
Social Security Disability Claims and Medical Exams
What is qualifying for disability benefits based on?
Partial Social Security Disability SSI benefits
Filing for disability and financial help
Getting approved after a Social Security Disability Psychological exam
How long does it take to receive disability benefits after you are approved?
Does Social Security Disability Come With Medicaid Benefits?
Applying for Disability or SSI - How long does it take
Can you work if you get Social Security Disability?
Am I eligible to receive disability benefits?
What medical disabilities, conditions qualify for Disability Benefits?
How to get disability for degenerative disc disease
What mental problems qualify for disability?
Conditions that get approved for disability

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.