Social Security Disability:

Defining Disability

The Social Security Administration only offers benefits for workers who are totally disabled. No benefits are available for those suffering from a partial or short-term disability. The Social Security Administration bases disability benefits on a worker’s inability to work. Under social security, employees are considered disabled if:

  • The worker cannot do the work he or she did before
  • The worker cannot adjust to another job because of their medical condition
  • The worker’s disability is expected to last for at least one year or result in death

How the SSA Decides if a Worker is Disabled

The Social Security Administration uses a set of five questions to determine whether a worker is disabled. The questions are as follows:

Are you working?

If you are working and your wages average more than $980 per month, you are not considered disabled. If you are not working, proceed to question 2.

Is your condition severe?

If your medical condition interferes with basic work-related tasks, your condition would be considered “severe.” Conditions that do not interfere with basic job tasks are not considered disabilities. If your condition is severe, proceed to question 3.

Is your condition included on the list of disabling conditions?

The Social Security Administration maintains a list of medical conditions that are so severe, they automatically qualify an individual as disabled. If a worker’s condition is not included on the list, the Social Security Administration will determine whether their condition is as severe as others on the list. If it is, the Social Security Administration will determine that the worker is disabled. If it is not, proceed to question 4.

Can you do the work you performed previously?

If a worker’s condition does not equal the severity of the medical conditions on the Social Security Administration’s list, it must be decided if the condition interferes with their ability to perform work they once did. If it does not, the claim will be denied. If it does, proceed to question 5.

Can you perform any other type of work?

If worker cannot perform their previous job duties, the Social Security Administration will determine whether they can adjust to another job. The worker’s medical condition, age, education and work skills will be considered in this step. If the worker cannot adjust to other work, their claim will be approved. If they can perform another job, their claim will be denied.

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