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What is the SSA’s definition of disability?

On Behalf of | Jan 24, 2023 | Firm News |

The Social Security Administration has strict rules and guidelines for how to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. You must meet all the requirements.

One portion of these requirements is to have a disability that qualifies under the SSA’s definition. There are two parts to the definition.


Your condition must last for at least a year or more. You need to have medical evidence that you will not heal or improve in the next 12 months. Short-term disabilities do not qualify as the SSA feels other benefits, such as workers’ compensation or short-term disability, may better serve those situations.


You cannot work, even with accommodations or changing the type of work you do. The SSA does qualify this by allowing you to do some type of income-earning activity, but it cannot be substantial gainful activity. SGA depends on how much you earn. The limit is rather low, usually far less than part-time earnings. The amount of money you can earn to reach SGA changes each year, but it is quite low compared to what you would typically earn with regular employment.


If you do not meet both portions of the requirement, then you cannot qualify to receive SSD benefits. The SSA does not provide exceptions to these rules, and it is very strict about qualifying. The administration will use a five-step process to determine if your situation meets the disability definition.

The SSA will assess any work you do or money you earn, look at how much your condition limits your ability to do work activities, check its list of disabilities that it assumes will prevent you from doing SGA, determine if you can do your regular job, and consider if there is other employment you could do. If you pass this process, then you will qualify under the definition of disability.

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