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

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.

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:

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
Should you get a disability lawyer before you get denied in California?
Social Security Disability Back Pay in California
Social Security Disability For Mental Illness 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.