Definition of Disability

An individual must qualify as disabled under Social Security’s definition of disability that is different than other programs

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  • Tell us about your disability:

Who is Considered Disabled by Social Security Administration?

To qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits either under Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, an individual must qualify as disabled under Social Security’s definition of disability that is different than other programs. Social Security pays only for TOTAL DISABILITY and will not award benefits to those who have a partial or short-term disability.

"Disability" under Social Security is based on an individual’s ability to work and the individual:

How Social Security Administration Decides Who is Disabled

To determine whether or not you are disabled under Social Security’s strict guidelines, they will go through the following five questions:

  1. Are you currently working?
    If you are applying for Social Security Disability Benefits and currently working, you will not be considered disabled if you earn an average of $1,000 a month or more.
  2. Are your conditions “severe”?
    To qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits your physical or emotional condition must interfere with basic work-related activities. If your condition does not interfere with work, the Social Security Administration will not find you disabled.
  3. Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?
    For each of the major body systems, Social Security Administration maintains a list of medical conditions (4) that are so severe they automatically are considered disabling. If your condition is not on the list, they decide if it is of equal severity to a medical condition that is on the list. If it is, they will offer you benefits at this stage, if it is not, the applicant goes onto Step 4. If you have questions about whether or not your condition is on the list, call Disability Advisors at 1-800-249-7507 and we can help you understand your options.
  4. Can you do the work you did previously?
    If your condition is severe but not at the same or equal level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then the Social Security Administration determines if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If it does not, your claim will be denied. If it does, they proceed to Step 5.
  5. Can you do any other type of work?
    If you cannot do the work you did in the past, the next thing they look at is if you are able to adjust to other work. They consider your medical conditions and your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills you may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied.

    It is important to understand that many applicants are denied during one of these steps and are later awarded benefits. To find out how, call Disability Advisors at 1-800-249-7507.