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Will the Social Security Administration consider me disabled?



Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits are not short-term disability benefits. Individuals who are substantially gainfully employed who are making more than $1,000 per month or whose mental or physical health conditions are not expected to last for at least 12 months need not apply. Medical conditions must also be supported by medical evidence.

The Social Security Administration defines “disabled” as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or … has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”

To determine if an adult (over the age of 18) is disabled the Social Security Administration will evaluate their mental and physical health conditions (as evidenced by the claimant’s medical records) using a five-step Sequential Evaluation Process:

  1. Is the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA)? The Social Security Administration considers substantial gainful activity in 2010 as making more than $1,000 per month or working a regular 40 hour per week work schedule (or the equivalent work schedule). If a claimant is able to make this much money each month the SSA will consider them not disabled, regardless of their mental or physical health condition, their education, their work experience or their age.

  2. Is the claimant’s mental or physical condition severe? The claimant’s ability to do work should be severely limited for at least 12 months or more. If the claimant’s mental or physical health condition is not severe the claimant will be determined not disabled. If the claimant’s condition is severe the Social Security Administration will continue to step 3.

  3. Is the claimant’s mental or physical condition listed on the Social Security Administration’s “List of Impairments”? The List of Impairments is a document which identifies conditions that are so severe that the claimant who has these conditions will be determined automatically disabled. If the claimant’s conditions meets or equals one of the listings documented on the Social Security Administration’s List of Impairments the SSA will determine the claimant is disabled, if not the Social Security Administration will continue to step 4.

  4. Can the claimant perform the work they have done before?The Social Security Administration will evaluate if the claimant can do any of the previous jobs they have done in the past (the SSA generally evaluates jobs held in the last 15 years). The Social Security Administration will make this evaluation by analyzing the claimant’s residual functional capacity or RFC. RFC can be physical and can include the claimant’s ability to sit, stand, walk, bend or lift, or it can be mental and include the claimant’s ability to follow directions, get along with co-workers, regularly attend work and maintain standards of cleanliness, pace and concentration.

  5. Can the claimant perform any other type of work which is found in the general economy?If a claimant is unable to perform a past job the Social Security Administration will evaluate if there is any type of work they could do given their age, their medical condition, their past job experience and any other residual skills. If the SSA determines the claimant can not do any other work they will be determined disabled. If the claimant could be retrained to do some type of job they will be determined not disabled.


Additional non-medical requirements exist for claimants to qualify for either SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income). Talk to a qualified Social Security Disability lawyer for more information about Social Security Disability requirements.