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

What does social security mean by disability, i.e. what is the definition?

The definition of disability used by the Social Security Administration is different from what many applicants and potential applicants might expect. Many individuals mistakenly assume the following:

1. That Social Security Disability and SSI disability provide for temporary disability benefits.

2. That Social Security Disability and SSI disability provide for partial disability benefits.

3. That Social Security Disability and SSI disability are based on a complete inability to work at the individual's last job.

4. That Social Security Disability and SSI disability are based on recommendations from a claimant's physician.

Let's discuss these in order. First of all, the SSD and SSI disability programs do not provide for temporary disability benefits. When a person is approved for disability, the award is granted based on a presumption that the claimant may be permanently disabled. Social Security does have a process for periodically reviewing claims to see if a person remains disabled and, thus, eligible to receive benefits. And this process involves having the claimant go through a CDR, or continuing disability review, every few years.

If the review finds that no medical improvement has taken place, the claimant's benefits will be continued. However, even though a review process exists, claims are nonetheless decided on the assumption that a person's state of disability will be long-standing or permanent, and not at all temporary.

Secondly, SSA (the social security administration) does not award claims on the basis of partial disability. That is, if a person loses the use of a limb or an eye, they cannot be approved for benefits on the basis of this alone. They also cannot be approved for a percentage loss of use of a limb, or an eye, or an ear, etc.

Thirdly, SSA does not make decisions on the basis of whether or not a claimant is unable to do their past job. Past work does play a role. However, individuals who are found to be unable to go back to a past job may still be denied on the basis that they can can do something else.

Fourth and finally, SSA does not make decisions based solely on what a person's treating physician has to say about their condition. A medical source statement from a doctor that has a history of providing treatment (i.e. a treating physician) can provide a basis for the approval of a claim.

However, this statement must refer to the claimant's remaining level of function (their residual functional capacity, or RFC) and it must also be supported by the physician's own record of treatment.

If a doctor supplies a statement that their patient is totally disabled, but the statement does not provide any information regarding their patient's limitations, then the statement will be practically useless. By the same token, if a doctor provides a detailed statement that supports their patient's claim for disability but this statement is in contradiction to the physician's own treatment notes, then the statement may not be regarded as valid and may be rejected.

  • What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

  • What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

  • Which conditions will social security recognize as a disability?

  • SSDRC Homepage:

    Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center

    New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

    Social Security Disability Requirements

    Social Security Disability list of impairments

    Social Security Disability Application

    Social Security List of Disabling Conditions

    What is your disability attorney supposed to do?

    When is the time to get a disability lawyer?

    If you get denied at a disability hearing, can you win later?

    Why does Social Security deny you when you have a lawyer?

    Who can help me file for disability?

    Behcet's disease and Filing for Disability

    Dystonia and Filing for Disability

    The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work

    Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

    Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    More Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    Common Questions about Social Security Disability and SSI

    Winning Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    The SSI Disability Benefits Program

    Medical exams for disability claims

    Applying for Disability in various states

    Social Security Disability SSI and Doctors - Yours and Theirs

    Social Security Disability and SSI Claim Reviews

    Social Security Disability SSI System and Benefits for Children

    Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative

    What you should know about Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

    Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney

    Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits

    FAQ on Disability Claim Representation

    Disability hearings before Judges

    Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers

    Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits

    Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability

    Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits for Children

    Disability Benefits through Social Security

    Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records

    Filing your claim for disability benefits

    Eligibility for receiving disability benefits

    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

    Resources on this site

    Social Security Disability, SSI Terms and Definitions

    Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

    For Individuals living in North Carolina

    Applying for Disability in North Carolina

    North Carolina Disability Lawyer

    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?

    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.