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 does the Severity of your impairment have to do with Your Disability Claim?

To be approved for Social Security Disability or SSI disability benefits, it is not enough to simply be diagnosed with a severe medical condition that is physical or mental in nature. For the purposes of the social security administration, the condition must have a certain level of severity before benefits can be awarded.

How severe must your condition be before you can be awarded disability benefits?

1. The condition must last at least 12 full months. One year's time is the minimum duration in order for the social security administration to consider a person disabled and unable to work.

2. The condition must not only last 12 months, it must be severe enough that it prevents you from being able to work and earn a substantial and gainful income for those twelve months.

3. The duration requirement does not mean that you must wait to file until you have had your condition for 12 months. If your condition has not actually prevented you from working and earning a substantial and gainful income for at least 12 months at the time of your application for disability, you can still apply for disability.

How is this? If the medical evidence in the records obtained from your various doctors and hospitals is strong enough--meaning that the disability examiner or administrative law judge can conclude that you have functional limitations which rule out a significant return to work activity--then a projection can be made that your disabling condition will last at least 12 full months.

Notes on how severity is determined by Social Security

At the first two levels of the system (disability application and the request for reconsideration appeal), severity is determined by a disability examiner, a claims specialist who gathers and reviews medical evidence.

Based on the medical evidence, the examiner will rate the applicant's limitations on a residual functional capacity form which, for most claims, must be agreed to by a medical consultant (an M.D.) who works in the disability examiner's case processing unit. If the case involves one or more mental conditions, then the examiner will also rate the mental limitations on a mental residual functional capacity form, which must then be agreed to by a mental consultant (a Ph.D.-level psychologist) who is part of the examiner's case processing unit.

The ratings that are made by the examiner, e.g. how much can the individual lift, do they have postural limitations, do they have trouble with memory, or attention, or concentration, etc, are intended to reflect the severity of the applicant's condition and their reduced ability to engage in work activity.

If, for example a claimant has a work history that involves performing medium level activity, but their residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment limits them physically to just the ability to perform sedentary or light work activity (a condition such as degenerative disc disease could account for this), they may find themselves approved for disability benefits (note: their age and the levels of their job skills would also be considerations in most cases).

Or, if a person has a cognitive or other mental disorder that eliminates their ability to mentally perform SSRTs (sustained, routine, repetitive tasks), then they might also expect to be approved for disability.

At the third level of the system, a disability hearing before an administrative law, cases are evaluated in the same manner. However, an ALJ, or administrative law judge will not perform a writeup of a case nor will the judge refer to a medical or psychological consultant to validate his decision.

Judges may, from time to time, request that expert medical or vocational witnesses appear at the hearing to provide insight and testimony, but this is completely at the discretion of the judge and usually occurs when the judge feels that such testimony may make medical or vocational (job-related) evidence more clear.

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 does the Severity of your impairment have to do with Your Disability Claim?
What does SSA consider a severe impairment for Social Security Disability or SSI Disability Benefits?
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
How Will Social Security Disability or SSI Look At My Case If I have More Than One Disabling Condition?
Social Security Disability Approvals - Medical Conditions and Getting Approved
How many Social Security Disability cases are approved for back pain?
Will I qualify for disability due to back pain, a bone spur, and bulging discs?
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?
If you have had a heart attack will you qualify for Social Security Disability?
How does Social Security consider lupus as a disability?
Is Bipolar Disorder a disability according to Social Security?
Is multiple sclerosis considered a disability by Social Security?
If you apply for disability in Indiana
Will I qualify for disability Benefits in Indiana?
Getting a Disability Lawyer in Indiana

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.