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What Is Considered a Disability for Social Security


For those who are disabled and are unable to work because of it, Social Security disability payments in the form of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be critical. However, not all persons who consider themselves to be disabled will meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) criteria. At the offices of Walton Law, LLC, our Alabama Social Security disability lawyers can help you to understand what constitutes a disability under the SSA’s guidelines, and how to apply for benefits. Contact us today to get started.

How Does the Social Security Administration Determine Whether a Person Is Disabled?

The definition provided for “disability” is found on the website of the SSA. This definition reads that a person is disabled if a medically determinable physical or mental impairment prevents them from being able to perform substantial gainful activity, and if that condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.

Understanding this definition requires breaking down two key components of it and defining each component further: substantial gainful activity and a medically determinable impairment.

Substantial gainful activity (SGA) refers to activity (work) that earns an income that is above a certain threshold. In 2019, the SGA limit for non-blind individuals is $1,220 per month. If a person is earning more than this amount, they are considered to be engaging in SGA.

A medically determinable impairment is an impairment that has been found, through medically acceptable diagnostic techniques, to be a condition that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities. The SSA maintains a list of evidentiary requirements that must be produced in order to establish impairment.

The SSA also maintains a listing of impairments. If a person has a condition that is found on the list, they will automatically be considered disabled per the SSA’s guidelines. If a person suffers from a condition not found on the list, they can still be found disabled if they can prove that the condition is impairing, prevents them from performing substantial gainful activity, and is expected to last for at least one year or cause death.

Evidentiary Requirements

In order to prove that a person has a disability that meets the SSA’s criteria, they must produce a number of different evidence types. These evidentiary requirements are provided by the SSA, and include:

  • Objective medical evidence from an acceptable medical source (i.e. a licensed healthcare professional);
  • Evidence that speaks to the nature of the disability, the extent of the disability, and for how long the disability has lasted and is expected to last; and
  • Evidence that details whether or not the affected individual can still perform any work.

An individual who is applying for disability benefits will first submit their application with evidence from their own doctor. In the event that the evidence is not strong enough, the SSA may request that the individual submits to a consultative examination, which will be conducted by either the patient’s own doctor or an independent medical examiner. The purpose of these examinations is to gather more evidence in order to make a determination about a disability.

Is Being Disabled and Unable to Work Enough to Qualify Me for Benefits?

Many people mistakenly assume that if they are disabled and unable to work, even if they have a disability that meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability, they will automatically be able to recoup Social Security disability benefits. However, this is not the case. In addition to being disabled, a person must:

  • Have earned enough credits through the Social Security Administration during their working years (for SSDI benefits); or
  • Be of limited income and resources (for SSI benefits); or
  • Be blind or aged (for SSI benefits).

Our Alabama Social Security Disability Lawyers Can Help You Understand More

At Walton Law, LLC, our Social Security disability lawyers know that the process of filing for Social Security disability benefits can be confusing, and you may not understand exactly what the SSA is looking for or how to prove that you deserve SSDI or SSI benefits. When you call our law firm, we can evaluate your case free of charge and provide you with the information you need. We know what the SSA is looking for and how to prepare successful applications for our clients. Reach us today by calling our office directly at 251-455-5819, visiting one of our offices in person, or sending a secure and confidential message through our web contact form.

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