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

Total Disability - Will social security try to determine if a person is totally disabled?

Yes, both SSD and SSI try to determine if a claimant is totally disabled. In other words, the SSD and SSI disability programs operate under the premise that a person will not be considered disabled and eligible to receive disability benefits unless they are totally disabled, as far as SSA standards are concerned.

What is total disability according to the social security administration? It is the inability of a person to engage in work activity while earning a substantial and gainful wage for at least one full year.

Another way of putting it is that for a person to receive disability benefits in the SSD or SSI program, they must satisfy the following conditions:

1. Their condition (which can be the result of a single mental or physical impairment, or several impairments combined) must be severe. This means that it must be obvious to both the disability examiner (and the medical consultant who works with the disability) that the claimant's condition is more than simply a non-severe impairment, such as a minor sprain, for example. Usually, most conditions will easily meet the litmus test for being "severe"; however, there are some cases in which the claimant is actually denied for having an NSI, or non-severe impairment.

2. The condition must not only be severe, it must be severe enough that it prevents the individual from being able to work at a level that allows them to earn a substantial and gainful income. What is a substantial and gainful income? Social Security defines it as SGA, or "substantial gainful activity", which means earning at least a certain amount each month (to see the current SGA limit). Being able to work and yet not being able to earn at least the SGA amount can mean that a person is disabled according to SSA. On the other hand, being able to work and earn the SGA limit, or more, will always mean that the individual will be denied on their disability claim.

3. The condition must be severe enough that it lasts for a full year. The one year time period is somewhat arbitrary; however, it is used because it is thought by SSA that if a condition is severe enough to make it impossible to engage in substantial work activity for at least a year, the individual's condition is probably disabling, possibly in a permanent sense.

For the purpose of acertaining whether or not a claimant meets the social security definition of disability, a claimant's medical records will be obtained and evaluated by a disability examiner at a agency known in most states as DDS, or disability determination services. DDS is the agency that decides disabiltity claims for the social security administration and Disability examiners render decisions on claims at the levels preceding the disability hearing where the decision is made by a judge.

In addition to using the information from medical records, the disability examiner will review and analyze the claimant's work history to gain insights into whether or not the claimant will be able to return to work they have done in the past, or do some type of other work, utilizing their education and job training.

At the first two levels, the disability application and reconsideration appeal, it is fairly common for disability examiners to conclude that an individual has the capability to return to their past work, or switch to some form of other work. In fact, disability examiners deny up to 70 percent of all the cases that they review for one of these reasons.

For claimants who do get denied based on the presumption that they can still work, their chances of receiving disability benefits will likely hinge on the outcome of a disability hearing. Fortunately, though hearings usually take quite some time to schedule, they offer claimants (and their disability attorneys if they are represented) the opportunity to rebut the conclusion that a return to work is possible. This is done by interpreting the medical evidence and possibly disputing the conclusions that were previously reached by disability examiners as to what the claimant's remaining functional abilities are (disability examiners very often assume that claimants have more physical and mental functionality than they really do and this results in denials of claims).

Refuting the position that a claimant can return to a former job is also done by taking a closer look at how the claimant's past work was categorized since the disability examiners who previously worked on the claim may have determined that the claimant had certain job skills, or levels of job skills, that they, in fact, did not have.

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:

Total Disability - Will social security try to determine if a person is totally disabled?
Will You Possibly Get Less Than Total Disability From Social Security?
To get Social Security Disability or SSI do you have to have Total Disability?
Does Social Security offer Partial Disability Benefits?
How severe must your condition be to be awarded Social Security Disability or SSI?
Social Security Disability - Permanent Disability
To get a Social Security Disability or SSI Award do you have to have a Permanent Disability?
If you apply for disability in in Georgia
Will I qualify for disability Benefits in Georgia?

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.