Disability: Legal Definition

The disability legal definition is a physical, mental or emotional impairment that inhibits a person from one or more major life activities. If a disability prevents a person from working, they could be eligible for benefits to make up for the income they are unable to earn.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers disability benefits to people with disabilities. These benefits include a monthly check and free health care.

Major Life Activities Inhibited by Disabilities

Major life activities fall into two categories.

General: The first includes the tasks that a healthy person must undertake in the course of a typical day. For instance, working, communicating, reading, bathing, eating, dressing, walking, driving, and so forth. If a medical condition inhibits any of these tasks to the point where a person has difficulty functioning on their own, the condition is likely a disability.

Major bodily functions: The second category involves major bodily functions. These include the immune system, the digestive system, bowel and bladder function, and the reproductive system. Again, impairment of any of these functions to the point where self-sufficiency is difficult or impossible usually indicates a disability.

How Social Security Defines a Disability

The SSA’s definition of a disability is not far off from the legal definition above. The key difference is that the SSA uses what it calls substantially gainful activity (SGA) as the litmus test for whether a person’s impairment meets the threshold of a disability.

SGA is a fancy way of saying gainful employment. The SSA considers gainful employment to be any type of work that enables a person to earn above the poverty line. Since the SSA does not award partial disability, a person who is disabled but capable of earning just higher than poverty wages may get declined for benefits.

How Social Security Assesses Disability

No definition of disability is particularly precise. That goes for the legal definition and the SSA’s definition. It is something that is impossible to quantify. So the SSA uses a lengthy method to assess those who apply for benefits and determine if they have a disability.

First, they check if the person’s condition appears in the SSA’s Blue Book. The Blue Book is a master list of conditions for which an applicant may receive automatic approval, provided the applicant meets all the requirements listed for the condition.

If the applicant does not meet a Blue Book listing, they can prove they have a disability by showing an inability for SGA. Often, the applicant will undergo a functional capacity evaluation, which measures how the applicant’s condition affects their ability to function daily.

Have Questions About Disability and the Benefits You May Qualify For? Call 865-566-0800 for a Free Consultation With a Social Security Lawyer

The Disability Advantage Group, can help you apply for, and receive, Social Security disability benefits. We offer a free case evaluation to determine how we can help. To schedule a time to speak with one of our attorneys, call our office at 865-566-0800.