Social Security Disability Information

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has its own definition of disability, which is distinct from the definition of insurance disability policies, Workers’ Compensation or even a doctor stating that a claimant is unable to work. The SSA’s definition of a disability is “the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or medical impairment (or combination of impairments) 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.” In other words, a claimant must be unable to perform their past work or any other work that the claimant may be qualified for.

Substantial gainful activity would include any work that an applicant is doing which results in income of over approximately $1,090 per month (the amount is periodically increased by the SSA). So a person is by definition, not disabled, if he or she can earn more than that amount in a month.

The SSA will look at information from doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners. It will also look at information from each claimant describing his or her daily activities. Functional limitations such as the inability to walk for long distances, and the inability to bend, lift or twist on a regular basis, and an inability to concentrate are examples of these types of functional limitations. The SSA will also send out forms to relatives and acquaintances of the applicant to document the limitations in social functioning. Most of the applications will involve an analysis of what the SSA calls the “residual functional capacity (RFC)”. The RFC is the description of the types of physical activities a person can perform in spite of medical limitations.

Once the SSA has decided the RFC, then an analysis is made as to whether or not the claimant is able to find any work which meets those restrictions. At this point the proverbial “ticket-taker” or “light duty inspection” jobs are hypothesized by the SSA. If these light jobs are appropriate to the claimant’s background, then benefits usually will be denied. The age of the applicant is also very important. If an applicant is below age 50, it is generally assumed that applicant is able to adjust to any new type “light duty” job without much difficulty. After age 50 though, age is considered to be an important obstacle to new employment, and after age 55 it is considered even more of an obstacle. Therefore, the older a person is before applying, generally, the easier it is to show a lack of ability to perform jobs and therefore receive benefits.

This information is general. Each case should be evaluated individually.

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