What Does the Social Security Administration Definition of Disability Actually Say?

by May 17, 2018General

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The Social Security Administration definition of disability actually says that you can’t hold down a job, need to have your issue for one year, it may result in your death, and should meet the Blue Book listing. “Disability” is a broad term whose meaning can vary depending on who is defining it.

But if you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the definition that matters is the one set by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA has a rigorous, multi-part definition of disability, and applicants must meet all criteria to be awarded benefits.

If you have a disabling medical condition and seek SSDI or SSI benefits, it is essential to prove to the SSA that you meet its definition of disability. Otherwise, you risk a claim denial and the prospect of navigating the labyrinthian appeals process, which can be even more stringent than submitting an initial claim.

A Social Security disability attorney from the Disability Advantage Group, can help you with your claim. We fight for benefits for our clients, helping them put together robust applications that demonstrate their eligibility. To schedule a free case evaluation with a member of our legal team, call our office today at 865-566-0800.

SSA Definition of Disability as a Medical Condition

It Prevents You From Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

According to the SSA’s definition, a disability does not necessarily prevent you from working. But it does prevent you from working at a level deemed “substantially gainful” by the SSA.

Your work is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) if you earn above a certain income each month. People with SGA do not qualify for benefits. The Social Security Administration definition of disability actually says that the threshold varies each year. As of 2018, the SGA amount is $1,180 if you are not blind and $1,970 if you are blind.

The SSA does not consider you disabled if you earn above the SGA limit. The reason is that the SSA, unlike other organizations such as the VA, does not recognize partial disability: you are either fully disabled or not disabled at all.

Also, note that the SGA limit only applies to earned income. Passive income, such as investment interest or annuity payouts, does not count toward the limit since it does not indicate gainful activity.

It Is Expected to Last at Least One Year

The SSA defines disability as a condition that is permanent. That does not mean, however, that you definitely will have the state forever. It does say that you can prove to the SSA that it is not a fleeting ailment and that your ailment has the potential to affect you on a long-term basis.

By the SSA’s standards, that means it must last one year or longer. If the condition has not yet continued a year, you must show medical evidence indicating that your treating physicians are confident the situation will last at least a year going forward.

It Is Expected to Result in Your Death

There is one scenario in which you do not necessarily have to prove that your disabling medical condition keeps you from substantial gainful activity, nor do you have to show that it has lasted or is expected to continue a year or longer.

If your condition is terminal, meaning your doctors believe it will result in your death, you can qualify for SSDI or SSI even if the state has not lasted a year or you are still able to work for the time being.

Your Condition Meets All Criteria of a “Blue Book” Listing

Meeting the criteria of a listing in the Blue Book, the SSA’s master list of automatically approved conditions, precludes the need to prove that you satisfy the SSA’s definition of disabled. If you pass the Blue Book, you should be awarded disability. The challenge is, the Blue Book criteria is quite strict, no matter the condition in question, and most applicants are not able to meet the requirements, thus the need to show that a state prevents SGA and is expected to last a year or longer.

The SSA, to our knowledge, has never come right out and explained just why they are so strict. But a few possibilities exist:

  • The SSA does not recognize partial disability, and so it sets its standards high to ensure everyone who receives benefits is disabled.
  • The SSA assumes that people with temporarily disabling conditions are eligible for other programs, such as short-term disability benefits from their employers.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Social Security Disability Lawyer

At the Disability Advantage Group, we want to help you win the Social Security disability benefits you deserve. We have fought and won many claims for our clients, and we can put our resources to work for you. To schedule a free claim evaluation, call our office at 865-566-0800.