Working in a job covered by Social Security is only the first requirement to qualifying for Social Security disability benefits. The individual must also have a medical condition that meets the definition of disability established by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Understanding Social Security disability rights and the definition of disability is not as easy as it sounds, that’s why we provide 100% free disability evaluations!
What are Social Security Disability Benefits?
In general, Social Security disability benefits are paid in monthly cash installments to people whose disabilities prevent them from working for one year or more. Benefits usually continue until the recipient is medically able to return to regular work. People who are still receiving these benefits when they reach retirement age will have their disability benefits converted automatically to retirement benefits but the benefit amount will not change.
The Social Security definition of disability differs from the definition used by other programs. Social Security does not pay for a short-term or partial disability, only for total disability. The definition of disability is based on the inability to work. Under Social Security rules, an applicant is disabled if he or she cannot perform work that was previously performed, cannot perform other work due to a medical condition, and the disability has lasted or is anticipated to last for a minimum of one year or result in death.
This definition of disability is extremely strict for a reason. The Social Security program assumes that a working family has access to insurance, workers’ compensation, and financial resources to provide support during a period of partial or short-term disability. Social Security disability benefits, commonly called SSDI, are intended only for disabilities that are long-term and complete.
To determine whether an applicant is disabled, the SSA follows a process that involves five questions. These are: is the applicant working, is the condition severe, is the condition included in the SSA list of disabling conditions, can the applicant perform work done previously, and can the applicant perform another type of work. A severe medical condition interferes with basic activities relevant to working such as sitting and standing.
If the condition is deemed severe, it is then compared to the SSA list of disabling medical conditions. A condition that is not listed is reviewed to determine whether an equally severe condition is listed. If it is not, the reviewer continues through the questions. Since judgment may come into play during this process, retaining a Social Security disability advocate is recommended to improve the outcome.