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

Is the Medical Criteria to Get Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits hard?

The Social Security disability and SSI programs are not partial disability benefit or temporary disability benefit programs. By contrast, both are total disability programs. This essentially means that the benefits provided by each program is not meant for individuals who have impairments or conditions that are likely to improve to the extent that they are able to return to work in less than twelve months (for example, simple fractures).

Additionally, unlike other disability programs such as workers compensation or VA benefits, the Social Security Administration does not allow percentage disability benefits (that are payable based on a percentage of infirmity and which may be payable even if a person is working a full time job).

Under SSA guidelines and regulations, a person's case must conform to a relatively high standard; they must prove that their disabling condition precludes the performance of not only their past job or jobs, but also any other type of job in the general economy for which their age, job skills, and education might otherwise qualify them.

Social Security sets rigorous disability medical criteria to address the severity of a person’s disabling condition. SSA disability examiners make their disability medical determinations with a disability guidebook (the blue book, titled “Disability Evaluation under Social Security”) that contains impairment listings for all body systems. If a disability applicant meets or equals the severity listing criteria of an impairment listing and they are not performing substantial work activity, they may be approved for disability benefits.

Unfortunately, most individuals are not able to meet or even medically equal an impairment listing. If they do not satisfy the listing criteria of a condition in the blue book (the social security list of impairments), they have to undergo a sequential evaluation process that begins with a medically determinable impairment, but also includes:

A) Documentation as to the severity of the impairment,

B) An evaluation of the limitations imposed by the impairment,

C) A determination of residual functional capacity (what the applicant is able to do in spite of their disability)


D) An evaluation of their ability to perform any of their past work when their residual functional capacity is considered.

If the applicant cannot meet the requirements of any of their past work, the disability examiner must determine if they are able to do any other suitable type of job ("suitable" meaning when their residual functional capacity, age, education, and job skills are considered). Social Security disability or SSI disability applicants are only approved for disability benefits if they are found unable to do any of their past work or any other work for which they might be qualified.

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

Related pages:

When does social security consider you eligible for disability benefits?
Who is eligible for SSI Disability?
Disability Criteria - Eligibility For Social Security and SSI Disability
Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?
Social Security Disability and SSI Mental Claims and Criteria
Can you apply for disability on the basis of multiple health problems?
What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?
Inability to Work and Eligibility for Social Security Disability and SSI Benefits
What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?
If You Are Currently Working Are You Eligible To Receive Social Security Disability Benefits?
Will Being A Veteran Affect Your Eligibility And Chances For Social Security Disability?
Are SSD and SSI disability cases decided the same way in terms of Eligibility?
Is the Medical Criteria to Get Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits hard?
Criteria for how Social Security Disability is Awarded
Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process
Social Security Disability, medium work, and your records
SSD, SSI, and medium, light, and sedentary work
What Does Social Security Consider To Be a Disability?

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