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

When does social security consider you eligible for disability benefits?

There is a definition of disability that is used by the social security administration for both the social security disability and SSI disability programs. Though it might surprise some people, the definition is just as dependent on vocational information as it is on medical information.

What does the SSA definition of disability say? Basically that, to qualify for disability benefits, a person's condition (or conditions, and they can be either physical or mental, or more than one of each) must be severe enough that they no longer have the ability to work and earn a substantial and gainful income.

The way the definition is applied is as follows:

A disability examiner working on a disability claim will thoroughly review an applicant's medical records to determine what their limitations are.

For physical limitations, the disability examiner will review the records and then rate the claimant as being able to perform heavy, medium, light, sedentary, or less than sedentary work activity. Less than sedentary will always result in a disability approval, while being rated at a higher work activity level may result in an approval depending on other factors.

Those factors include what the claimant did in their past work (and what those jobs required), what the claimant's work skills are, how well educated they are, and how old they are. The older you are, the more consideration the disability system will give since it is generally assumed that with greater age has a person has fewer job opportunities.

The physical rating that a claimant receives (known as their RFC, or residual functional capacity, rating) will be used to determine if they receive disability benefits. However, claimants are also rated for their mental limitations.

An MRFC, or mental residual functional capacity rating, is conducted if the claimant indicated on their disablity application that they had a cognitive problem (learning disability or memory problems, or limited IQ) or psychiatric problems (depression, bipolar disorder).

The MRFC rating will indicate whether or not the claimant has any of the following: difficulty learning new tasks, performing tasks that require attention and concentration, working in a changing work environment, integrating with co-workers and supervisory personnel, and a wide range of other mental characteristics that would impact their ability to persist in a work environment.

The mental and physical ratings a claimant receives from a disability examiner--and the medical and the mental consultants that the disability examiner works with in his or her claims processing unit--will be used to determine several things. The first will be whether or not the claimant still has the ability to work at one of their former jobs. If that is not possible, the examiner will decide whether or not the claimant can do some type of other work. If that is also not possible, the examiner may decide that the claimant is disabled.

continued at: Eligibility for Disability Benefits as Viewed by Social Security

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

Related pages:

When does social security consider you eligible for disability benefits?
Who is eligible for SSI Disability?
Disability Criteria - Eligibility For Social Security and SSI Disability
Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?
Social Security Disability and SSI Mental Claims and Criteria
Can you apply for disability on the basis of multiple health problems?
What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?
Inability to Work and Eligibility for Social Security Disability and SSI Benefits
What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?
If You Are Currently Working Are You Eligible To Receive Social Security Disability Benefits?
Will Being A Veteran Affect Your Eligibility And Chances For Social Security Disability?
Are SSD and SSI disability cases decided the same way in terms of Eligibility?
Is the Medical Criteria to Get Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits hard?
Criteria for how Social Security Disability is Awarded
Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process

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 an application for disability
Filing for disability - where to go
How to qualify for disability
Qualifying for disability
Winning disability benefits, how to win
Winning disability for a mental condition
Social Security Disability Back pay, SSD, SSI
Disability Criteria and requirements