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SSDI do I have to be bed-ridden to qualify

How disabled do I have to be to get SSDI?


Many claimants are not bed-ridden but they find they are not capable of working five days per week, eight hours per day. Recently on our disability forum we had a claimant ask, “Can I get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if I can still function?”


What does the SSA consider disabled?


One of the biggest questions asked by disability applicants is how will they know if they are disabled. Does the claimant have to be immobile, lying in bed all day long? What if they can walk, sit or stand but they have severe limitations on the amount of time they can do each one?

The main questions asked by the SSA to determine disability:

  1. Is the claimant working?

  2. Is the claimant’s condition going to last 12 continuous months?

  3. Is the claimant’s condition severe?

  4. Is the claimant’s condition on the SSA Listing of Impairments?

  5. Can the claimant perform their current job? If not can the claimant retrain for new work?


So the SSA’s most important consideration is whether your condition allows you the residual functional capacity (RFC) to work some type of job. Now, what if you cannot work your current job? If you cannot work your current job they will evaluate your age, job skills, health condition and educational background to determine if you can retrain for new work.

This consideration has the greatest impact on young workers (those under the age of 50). For young workers it is nearly impossible to win SSDI or SSI benefits if you do not have a condition on the SSA Listing of Impairments, which is a general list of conditions and symptoms the SSA will consider automatically disabling. If your condition does not meet or exceed a listing the SSA will assume you can retrain for some other type of work.

For instance, if you work a heavy or moderate labor intensive job the SSA will expect that you can retrain for light, moderate or sedentary work.

What does the SSA consider work?


Now, let’s go back to the question. Do you have to be bed-ridden to get SSDI? Not but you will have to prove you don’t have the residual capacity to work a normal work week or that you cannot make too much money.

This all goes to the question of what is “work.” In 2013, the SSA will consider you “working” if you can make $1,010 (for the nonblind) and $1,690 (for the statutorily blind). If you are able to generate this amount of income the SSA will consider this “gainful work” and will not consider you disabled. Your SSDI claim, regardless of the severity of your mental or physical health condition, will be denied.

What if you don’t make that much money but you work a lot of hours? If you work too many hours, regardless of your income, this could be considered “substantial” work and you could be denied benefits. For instance, attending school or volunteering for over 20 to 40 hours per week could be considered “work” even if they are not done for pay or profit because the effort to complete the activity could be considered as great as the effort to work.

Bottom line

You will not have to be bed-ridden to get SSDI benefits but you will have to prove you do not have the capacity to perform substantial gainful activity.
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