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).

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability in North Carolina

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Tips to Prepare for Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI

Advice to Win SSD and SSI Benefit Claims

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

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?

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

Related pages:

List of Conditions for Disability in North Carolina
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?
If you apply for disability in Florida
Will I qualify for disability Benefits in Florida?
Permanent Social Security Disability in Florida