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How to win Disability

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Disability for Mental

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Disability through SSA

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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

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SSDRC Disability Blog

Inability to Work and Eligibility for Social Security Disability and SSI Benefits

Inability to work is a phrase that comes up frequently on this website simply because this is one of the main tenets of the definition of disability used by SSA (the social security administration).

To qualify for disability benefits and prove one's eligibility to receive either social security disability or SSI benefits, it must be shown that there exists an inability to work at what is known as the SGA, or substantial gainful activitity level.

Being unable to work at the SGA level means two things:

1) A person can work while filing for disability or receiving disability.

2) A person cannot work and earn more than a certain amount each month while they are filing for disability or receiving disability. This amount, or limit on monthly earnings, is the SGA amount.

How is it determined that a person who is filing for disability possesses an ability to work at this earnings level? There are two ways of proving this on a disability case. The first is that by the time the individual decides to apply for disability they have already been out of work for at least 12 months. Twelve months is the duration used by SSA to determine whether or not a person is actually disabled.

In other words, if their mental or physical condition, or a combination of both physical or mental conditions, is severe enough to prevent them from being able to work and earn an income that is at least equal to the SGA earnings limit that is set in place for a given year, and this situation persists for at least 12 months, then SSA will consider them disabled as long as their case also satisfies the non-medical requirements and qualifying criteria for the disability program under which they have filed.

For social security disability, non-medical disability criteria would mean being insured and eligible to receive SSD benefits in the first place. And for SSI disability, non-medical criteria would mean not having more than the limit on allowable assets since SSI has an asset limit. Note: SSD does not have an asset, or resource limit, and SSI does because SSI need-based and is intended for individuals who do not have enough work credits to qualify for disability in the social security disability program.

What if you have not been out of work for a full 12 months by the time you apply for disability? This is not an issue. In fact, a large percentage of claimants have not been out of work for this length of time due to their medical condition by the time they contact social security to file a claim. And many applicants have only just recently stopped working when their claim is started.

What social security will do in such cases (actually, this will be done by the disability examiner who works on processing the claim) is A) review the medical records, B) decide to what extent the person is limited, C) determine whether or not they are currently unable to work at one of their past jobs or at some type of other work that uses their education and skills, and then D) make a projection as to whether or not their state of disability will last at least 12 months.

If the projection can be made that their condition will be found to satisfy the 12 month duration requirement for social security disability or SSI eligibility, they will qualify for disability benefits. If not, they will be given a durational denial of their disability claim.

Eligibility for disability benefits is based on the inability to work at a certain earnings level (SGA) for at least 12 months. Does the social security administration automatically assume that a person is disabled for life if they are unable to work and earn a substantial and gainful income for at least 12 months? No. SSA simply concludes that the person has satisfied the social security definition of disability and, as such, is completely and totally disabled.

To test whether or not the person will continue to be disabled, SSA will periodically (every few years) review the individual's claim through something known as a continuing disability review, or CDR. Note: most individuals who go through a CDR evaluation have their benefits continued because it is usually very difficult for the social security administration to prove that the person has had medical improvement in their situation.

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

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