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

To qualify for Social Security disability or SSI, how severe must a condition be?

Social Security disability is determined by an individualís mental or physical functional limitations, which prevent them from being able to perform work activity (including past work and other forms of work). Therefore, any condition that prevents an individual from working, or limits the degree to which they can work, may be considered a severe condition by the social security administration.

How does the Social Security Administration determine that a condition is severe enough to qualify a person for disability benefits? If the claim is at the disability application or request for reconsideration level, a disability examiner who works in a state-level DDS agency (disability determination services, the agency that makes decisions on disability claims for the social security administation) will consider all the information contained in the claimant's medical records.

This, of course, may include supporting statements from the claimant's treating physician(s). Using this information, the examiner will determine to what extent, and in what ways, the claimant is functionally limited.

For example, does the individual have neurological deficits, or deficits with regard to hearing or seeing, or being able to ambulate (move about)? Do they have range of motion problems? Do they have trouble using their hands, or standing or sitting longer than a certain period? In the case of mental impairments, do they have difficulty with concentration, or remembering.

The functional limitations that are indicated by the medical evidence will allow the disability examiner to decide how to rate the claimant (for physical conditions, for example, ratings can include the ability to do medium level work, light duty work, sedentary work, and less than sedentary work).

This rating--or ratings if the claimant has both physical and mental conditions--will be compared to the types of work that were performed by the claimant within the prior fifteen year period. And this comparison will allow the disability examiner to determine if the disability claim will be approved or denied.

If the disability case has moved beyond the first two levels (application and reconsideration), and is now at the level of a social security disability or SSI hearing, the same evaluation process will be used, only this time it will be conducted by a federal administrative law judge. And at this hearing, the claimant and their attorney will be allowed to present new evidence and challenge the basis of the prior decisions (i.e. the denials of the claim) in the attempt to A) win ongoing monthly disability benefits, and B) obtain as much back pay as possible for the claimant.

Often, individual have multiple impairments that, taken by themselves, may not be severe enough to qualify for Social Security disability. However, when taken together along with an individualís age and education, they may result in a Social Security disability allowance. In other words, an approval for SSD benefits or SSI disability benefits.

If your condition or conditions have been preventing you from engaging in work activity that enables you to earn a substantial and gainful income, you should contact your local Social Security office or call the toll free number to file a disability application.

You may also seek representation from a disability representative at any time to assist you with your claim. Representation is not required, but for individuals who will eventually have their case decided at the hearing level (before a federal judge), it can provide a significant advantage in terms of case preparation.

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

Related pages:

How to qualify for disability - The Process of Qualifying for Benefits
To qualify for Social Security disability or SSI, how severe must a condition be?
Can You Qualify for Disability if you did not work much?
How Do You Qualify For Disability without Money To Go To the Doctor?
The Qualification Criteria for Social Security Disability
What If You Did Not Work Long Enough To Qualify For Disability?
Qualifying for Disability - What is Social Security Looking for?
Do You Qualify For Social Security Disability Insurance?
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?
Do You Have To Qualify For SSI Financially?
How does work qualify you for disability? (work credits)
Tips for SSD and SSI disability hearings

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.

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria