What Is Total Disability According to the Social Security Administration?

by Apr 11, 2018Disability Benefits

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Before you can qualify for disability benefits, you must have a total disability according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). That is true whether you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). There are no “tiers” when it comes to disability, and you will not receive benefits if you are partially disabled. Instead, it is an all-or-nothing proposition, and your award is a flat amount that does not vary based on your level of disability. How much permanent disability pays is based on either the amount you have paid into the system or your income and assets, depending on whether you applied for SSDI or SSI benefits.

When you are applying for SSDI or SSI, it is important to understand what the SSA considers totally disabled, so you can provide substantial evidence that you meet its threshold.

The SSA will look at several factors when it tries to determine if you are totally disabled, including the severity of your medical condition, your ability to work, and how long your condition will last.

How Will the SSA Determine the Severity of My Medical Condition?

The SSA requires your condition to be severe in order to receive benefits. This, of course, begs the question: What is “severe”?

For the SSA to judge your condition as severe, it must be readily apparent to the person reviewing your application—an employee known as a “disability examiner”—that your condition significantly impairs your functionality day in and day out. The SSA will not award benefits for a mere inconvenience or a source of intermittent pain and discomfort.

To help you determine whether your medical condition qualifies for disability, the SSA has published a list of the impairments it considers disabling. This is the Blue Book. Each condition in the Blue Book has specific medical criteria. If you meet the criteria for your condition, the SSA will likely consider it severe.  

In cases where the severity of your condition is not obvious, or it is not listed in the Blue Book, you have other options to qualify for benefits. A disability attorney from the Disability Advantage Group, can help you with this.

How Will the SSA Check My Ability to Work?

The purpose of disability benefits is to provide you with an income when a medical condition prevents you from working for a living. With that in mind, the SSA wants to be certain that you cannot earn a living on your own, and that your medical condition is the reason.

To show the SSA you cannot work, you must satisfy three criteria:

  • You cannot return to your previous job;
  • You cannot return to any job you performed over the last 15 years; and
  • You cannot perform any other job that your education and experience qualify you to do.

If the SSA identifies a job that it believes you can perform in spite of your condition, it might decline your application.

How Long Must My Condition Last to Count as a Total Disability?

According to its disability brochure, the SSA only grants benefits for conditions that have lasted a year or longer or are expected to last at least a year. The only exception involves conditions that have the potential to take your life within a year. In some cases, you can receive benefits for these terminal conditions.

How Can I Prove My Disability to the SSA?

We can help you make your case to the SSA that you are totally disabled and not capable of working. You typically need several types of evidence, which the SSA will use to evaluate and decide your disability benefit claim.

Medical Records

Your medical history includes your specific diagnosis, lab test results, the prognosis of your condition, and other specific medical information that sheds light on exactly what your ailment is and how it is affecting your body.

Physicians’ Statements

Some aspects of your medical history cannot be adequately expressed in objective diagnoses and quantitative lab values. For this reason, a statement from your doctor can offer a lot of value in proving total disability to the SSA. A statement can provide specific details of your doctor’s observations of you and your condition.

Work History

By supplying your work history and your educational credentials, we can rule out jobs that the SSA might try to claim you can perform. The more thorough and specific your work history, the less room there is for the SSA to claim you are capable of working and earning a living for yourself.

How Can I Get Help With My Disability Claim?

The legal team at the Disability Advantage Group, focuses on helping disability applicants win the benefits they need. We want to help you put together a strong claim that makes a compelling case for approval. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 865-566-0800.