Common Disability Claim Questions

For Social Security Disability purposes, to be considered disabled a person must have an impairment, either medical, psychological, or psychiatric in nature. The disabled person’s impairment must also meet the definition of disability which essentially states that the impairment must be severe enough that it keeps the person from working, and earning above a certain amount, for at least twelve months.


More disability facts

In detail, what does this really mean, as far as the Social Security Administration is concerned?

First, a person’s medical records must indicate the presence of an impairment, or several impairments, either physical or mental in nature.

Second, the impairment must be severe enough that it prevents a disabled individual from working, or, if they continue to work, prevents the person from earning more than $900.00 each month. This amount is referred to by the social security administration as SGA, or substantial gainful activity. It is important to note that this amount is before taxes.

Third, the impairment must last at least twelve calendar months, or be projected to last that long.

Therefore, applicants for Social Security Disability should realize the following:

A claimant may fit the definition of disability and be considered eligible for Social Security Disability on the basis of one impairment, or on the basis of several impairments. But the condition must be severe enough to significantly affect the ability to work. This means the impairment must last at least twelve months, or be expected to last that long. It also means that while “back conditions” usually fall into the severe category, “wrist and ankle sprains” seldom qualify as severe disabling conditions.

A disabled individual may be working when they apply for Social Security Disability, and may continue to work even after they have been approved—as long as they do not earn more than the SGA amount. The SGA amount changes periodically, but currently it is $900.00 per month. It is important to remember this is a gross income amount, i.e. before taxes have been deducted.

A person earning more than the SGA amount who applies for Social Security Disability or ssi benefits will, essentially, be denied the same day without having their impairments or medical records even considered. This is referred to as a
“technical denial”.

The specific answer to Question One, however, is this: in the eyes of the Social Security Disability and ssi programs, a person
is considered disabled when:

They have a severe impairment that has lasted, or will last, twelve months.

They are unable to perform work (work they have done in the past) while earning in excess of $900.00 per month.

They are unable to perform other types of work, typically work related to their past work (for example, a car mechanic might be expected to switch to motorcycle engine repair if the job duties are similar enough).