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

How does social security define disability?

There are two ways to define disability in terms of how the social security administration views it. The first is to cite the definition used by SSA.

According to SSA, a condition, or set of conditions, meets the federal government's standard of disability if it does the following:

1. Persists for one year or longer - This length is an absolute requirement. A condition, to be disabling, must last this long at the very least. Having said that, however, a claimant is not required to have had a particular condition, or set of conditions for an entire year before they are allowed to file for disability, or before they can be approved for disability. This is because disability examiners at the initial disability application and reconsideration appeal stages, and disability judges at hearings, can review the claimant's medical records and ascertain whether or not a condition can be predicted to be disabling for a year or longer.

2. Prevents the claimant from working and earning a substantial and gainful income during the previously mentioned minimum one-year period -- Keep in mind that the definition of disability does not state that a claimant cannot work while filing for disability. It simply states that a person must be incapable of working at a certain level to be considered "disabled". That level is defined as a certain earnings amount per month. That earnings amount per month is called SGA, or substantial gainful activity. Essentially, to qualify for disability benefits from the social security administration, a claimant cannot earn more than the SGA amount that is in effect for a given year.

3. May result in death -- Many claimants might be surprised to read this, but the SSA definition of disability holds that a condition may need to be this severe to result in the awarding of disability benefits. However, this aspect of the definition of disability only comes into play in cases where it is not apparent that the claimant's condition rules out the ability to work and earn a substantial and gainful income. In all likelihood, cases that show an obvious risk of death will be those that involve quick disability determinations or compassionate allowances based on terminal illness criteria.

A second way to look at how SSA chooses to define disability is to simply add more detail to the disability definition. And this entails a greater discussion of certain concepts that are key to the social security disability and SSI determination process, such as: Past work, Other work.

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