What Is a Disability According to the Social Security Administration?

by May 17, 2018Appeals

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There is a strict definition of disability according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). The organization defines a disability as a medical condition that meets all of the following criteria:

  • It is a medically determinable physical or mental impairment;
  • It prevents you from engaging in any substantial gainful activity; and
  • It has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months, or it is expected to result in your death.

For help determining whether or not you meet these criteria, contact the Social Security Disability attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group. We offer free case evaluations to disability applicants nationwide. Call 865-566-0800 today.  

Which Impairments Does the SSA Consider Disabling?

For the SSA to consider a person disabled, they must have a long-term medical condition that can be proven with medically acceptable diagnostic techniques. Physical and mental medical conditions can qualify for disability, as long as an applicant can provide objective medical evidence.

The condition must be permanent, meaning it will last at least one year. The SSA does not award temporary disability benefits.

What Is a Substantial Gainful Activity?

Before it awards disability benefits, the SSA will determine if your medical condition is severe enough to prevent you from working. If you are unable to work—or maintain a substantial gainful activity—you could qualify.

To determine if you are able to work, the organization compares your monthly income to its substantial gainful activity limit. As of 2018, the threshold is $1,180 per month. If your earned income exceeds that amount, the SSA will likely consider you able to work.

If you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and not Supplemental Security Income (SSI), it is important to note that the SSA does not limit the amount of income you can earn from non-work activities. For instance, if you earn passive income through stock investing, real estate, angel investing, bonds, dividends, or another source, it will not affect your ability to get approved for SSDI.

The rules are different for SSI. Because SSI is a government welfare program for the needy, it caps your income—as well as your total assets—from all sources, not just those involving work. You must meet SSI rules regarding income and assets to qualify for benefits.

How Will the SSA Determine If I Have a Disability?

The SSA will determine if you have a severe, long-term medical condition that prevents you from working before it decides if you qualify for benefits. It has several ways to evaluate whether or not you have a disability.

The Blue Book

The SSA’s Blue Book is a master list of disabling medical conditions that qualify for benefits. To get approved for benefits on the basis of a condition on this list, you must meet the medical criteria listed for that condition. For many medical conditions, this means undergoing specific tests and meeting detailed diagnostic requirements. The SSA will look at your medical records, test results, and other documentation to determine if you meet a Blue Book listing. If you do not meet a Blue Book listing, the SSA will decide your case based on your work history, skills, and education.

Your Work History

The SSA reviews your work history to determine if you can return to your previous job. If the SSA decides that your disability is not severe enough to prevent you from working at your most recent job, it will likely issue a denial of benefits.

If you cannot return to your previous job, the SSA will analyze your employment history going back 15 years. If it believes you could return to one of these past jobs, you might not qualify for disability. However, if you cannot work at any job you have done in the past, you stand a good chance of drawing monthly benefits.

Your Skills and Education

In addition to evaluating whether you can return to any previous job you have performed, the SSA also examines whether you can do any other type of work—even if you have never done this work in the past. To do this, the SSA will look at your skills and education to see if you match with any available jobs. If not, you will likely receive benefits.

How Can I Get Help Applying for Disability Benefits?

At the Disability Advantage Group, our legal team focuses on helping people get the disability benefits they deserve. To schedule a free consultation and claim evaluation, call us at 865-566-0800.