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

What is the Social Security definition of disability?

Social Security Disability (and SSI for that matter also) is a total disability program, not a short term or temporary disability program. This sets social security apart from veterans benefits which are often awarded on the basis of percentages. Social Security Disability and SSI benefits are given when the condition is 100 percent disabling, and not any less, according to the definition of disability used by SSA (social security administration).

SSD and SSI are also not awarded on the basis of a condition that is temporarily disabling. In fact, the medical records must clearly show that you will be disabled for a minimum of one year and future evaluations will be done periodically after you are approved to determine if your condition or conditions still satisfy the program requirements.

To qualify for disability benefits under either program will mean that your physical or mental condition, or combination of various conditions, satisfies the definition of disability used by the social security administration. What is the definition of disability and how does a case satisfy it?

The definition of disability states that an individual must have a severe impairment that has either lasted, or can be expected to last, for a minimum of one year.

The condition must be severe enough that it prevents the individual from engaging in what is referred to as SGA.

Substantial and gainful activity, or SGA, happens when a person is working and earning a certain level of income that the social security administration considers to be clear evidence of non-disability.

In other words, if you can work and earn the SGA earnings amount, or limit, then you are not disabled. If your condition prevents you from working and earning this amount or more, then you may be considered disabled (to see the current SGA limit: The most you can earn while receiving disability benefits).

Obviously, the SSA definition of disability does not bar work activity, which is a common mistaken assumption. A claimant can work while filing for disability, or even work while receiving disability benefits. The issue is how much the person can work, which is measured by how much they are able to earn.

Granted, this system is not perfect at measuring who is disabled and who is not since an individual who is receiving disability benefits can simply watch their earnings to make sure that they do not go over the monthly gross earned income limit.

However, thus far, this is the best method that the social security administration has come up with. It also, of course, ensures a certain amount of fairness since it allows disability beneficiaries to still work and receive a small amount of earned income without necessarily disqualifying them from receiving disability benefits. Even individuals with high earnings records still do not receive exorbitant disability benefit checks and, for this reason, many beneficiaries attempt to supplement their benefit checks with part-time work.

How do you prove disability? Or, rather, what must a disability examiner or an administrative law judge see in the evidence of the case--which includes both medical records and information concerning the claimant's vocational work history--in order to approve a person for benefits? (note: examiners make decisions on disability claims which are pending at the disability application or reconsideration appeal levels, and administrative law judges make decisions on claims that are at the hearing levels).

Disability cases that are not approved on the basis of meeting a listing (meaning that you have a physical or mental condition that is contained in the Social Security Disability list of impairments and meet all the necessary listing requirements) will be evaluated under a five step process that takes into consideration what the claimant's functional limitations are and their relative ability to engage in work activity.

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:

What is the Social Security definition of disability?
How does social security define disability?
What does social security mean by disability, i.e. what is the definition?
What does the social security administration definition of disability actually say?
What is a disability according to the Social Security Administration?
Why is the Social Security Administration definition of disability so strict?
Can I get disability for arthritis in my shoulders, arms, and feet?
What if Social Security Disability does not follow my doctor's assessment of my condition?
Can you file for Temporary Disability Income with Social Security?
Qualifying for disability in California
How do I apply for disability in Benefits in California
Applying for Disability in California

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

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?

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.