Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Disability Requirements

Disability Applications

Disability Advice Tips

How long do cases take?

How to win Disability

SSD Mistakes to avoid

Disability for Mental

What if you get denied?

How to file Appeals

Disability through SSA

SSI Disability Benefits

Disability for Children

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

Recent Questions

SSDRC Disability Blog

What is a disability according to the Social Security Administration?

The definition of disability used by the social security administration is fairly simple, though meeting it can be difficult. The definition states that a disabling condition for SSSD or SSI is one that is severe, and severe enough to make it impossible for a person work and earn a substantial and gainful income for a period of not less than one full year, either at a former job, or at some type of other work for which they might be suited.

According to SSA, a disability is any condition, or set of conditions, that meets its definition of disability. Whether or not a claimant's case meets this definition of disability, though, is determined by reviewing the claimant's history of medical treatement (facilitated by gathering the treatment notes and records from their various treatment providers), and, usually as well, their work history.

Cases are approved for Social Security Disability or SSI disability in one of two ways. The first is by satisfying the requirements of a Social Security listing. What is a listing? A listing is a physical or mental impairment that is "listed" in the blue book (which, in printed form, is called "Disability Evaluation under Social Security", though most lay persons simply refer to it as the social security disability list of impairments). The listing manual is actually a listing of various conditions and the social security criteria that needs to be satisfied in order for a person to be approved on the basis of one of those conditions, such as, for example, bipolar disorder, lupus, or depression.

Note: As a disability examiner, I was required to keep a copy of the blue book on my desk and this resource was used multiple times each day when reviewing claims. The blue book, in addition to the listings, also provides forewords on various medical conditions (e.g. degenerative disc disease) and body systems (e.g. cardiovascular or respiratory system impairments).

Most claims that are approved are not approved on the basis of satisfying the requirements of a listing. This is because listing requirements tend to be very specific. And what does not help this is the fact that most medical records lack a certain specificity that is required to satisfy a listing's requirements. Therefore, for this reason, it is not at all uncommon for an individual's case to fail to meet the depression listing, but yet still be approved for disability under the second method of disability approval.

The second means of being approved involves something known as sequential evaluation. This system is how most social security disability and SSI cases are approved. It involves several steps and if all of the steps are successfully completed, an applicant's case may be approved (though, in the case of SSI disability, even successfully completing these steps does not necessarily mean that a person will receive disability benefits since they will still have satisfy the non-medical requirements for SSI that involve a limit on how much a person can have in assets).

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

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?

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