When Does the SSA Consider You Disabled?

Submitted by Elizabeth on

If you cannot work for at least 12 months due to a disabling condition, you may be considered disabled by the SSA. This means you may qualify for disability benefits which will help you shoulder the financial hardship due to the fact that you are too disabled to go to work and, thereby, meet your everyday financial needs.

The SSA’s Definition of Disability

To qualify for disability benefits, a person is required to meet the Social Security Act’s definition of disability. Under this Act, a person is considered disabled if they are unable to work because of a severe medical condition that has either lasted—or is expected to persist—for at least 12 months, or end in death. The person's medical condition(s) must stop them from performing work tasks that they were employed to do in the past, and it must also stop them from being able to adjust to other kinds of work.

How the SSA Decides If You Are Disabled

When making the decision about a person’s application for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires answers to the following questions.

Are you working?

The SSA uses your earnings to decide whether any work activity is what is termed ‘Significant Gainful Activity’ (SGA). The SGA is earnings that are more than $1,550 per month. If you earn this amount or more, you will not qualify for disability benefits. However, if you are not working, your application will be sent to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office that will make a decision that is based on your medical condition.

Is your condition "severe"?

'Severe’ means that you are unable to participate in simple basic work-related activities for at least 12 months, like lifting, standing, walking, sitting, or remembering.

Can you perform the work you did before?

If you cannot perform the work you did previously, then your application may go on to the next step.

Can you do any other type of work?

If you are unable to do any past work, the SSA considers your age, medical condition, education level and any other skills you may have to get you into a job before it decides if you are eligible for disability benefits.

How to Gather Evidence To Support Your Claim

Providing sufficient medical evidence is the most important thing you can do for your application. This is because medical evidence is the most concrete thing one can provide to support their claim for disability benefits. The exact evidence required of you would be listed under your medical condition in the SSA’s Blue Book. This may include results of specific tests and a doctor’s report. You may be able to have your medical condition assessed via a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment which is carried out by a physician. An RFC helps disability applicants prove that their medical condition(s) is limiting them physically, mentally, or both.

Get Help With Your SSD Claim

One of the ways to prove your eligibility for disability benefits is by providing evidence that shows how exactly your medical condition will prevent you from working for at least 12 months.

If you complete the Free Case Evaluation on this page, you can take advantage of the resources available and get connected with an independent attorney who subscribes to our website. It is important to note that disability applicants who work with an attorney have a greater likelihood of winning their claims for benefits compared to those who do not and apply on their own.

Additional Resources