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Definition of Disability

The Social Security Administration defines a disability as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for at least 12 continuous months." This definition is used to determine if a claimant is disabled for both the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs.

The SSA uses what they call the Sequential Evaluation Process to determine if claimants are disabled. First they will determine if the claimant is working and making too much money ($1,040 a month in 2013 for the non-blind). Next, they will determine the medical severity of the claimant's impairment(s) and whether it is severe enough to interfere with basic work-related activities. Next they will determine if the claimant's condition is on the SSA Listing of Impairments or Blue Book. If the claimant's condition is of equal severity to a medical condition on the list, the SSA will consider the claimant disabled. If not, they will determine if the claimant's condition interferes with their ability to do the work they did previously. If not, the SSA will determine if the claimant can adjust to new work. Claimants who cannot adjust to new work will be considered disabled.

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