Select Page

When you experience an injury or illness that is bad enough to prevent you from earning a living, you may be thinking about applying for government assistance to help you get by. If you plan to seek Social Security Disability Insurance from the U.S. Social Security Administration, you first must prove that you meet the agency’s narrow definition of “disability.”

How does the SSA define “disability?

Defining “disability”

To potentially become eligible for SSDI benefits, your disability must not be one that you may recover from in the near future. In other words, it must be long-term in nature, lasting at least a year and possibly until you die.

To qualify for SSDI, you must also not be able to do the same job you did before you had the disability. If the SSA finds you capable of performing the duties of your previous job, it is likely to deny your application for benefits.

While you must show that you are unable to perform the duties associated with your old job, you must also demonstrate why you are unable to adjust to other forms of work. The SSA considers numerous factors when making such decisions, among them your age, your previous work experience and your level of education. If the SSA determines that it is unrealistic for you to return to work in any capacity, your odds of receiving approval for SSDI benefits improve.

Additional criteria

Meeting the above terms improves the chances of, but does not guarantee, your eventual receipt of disability benefits. The SSA may also consider whether your condition appears on its list of “approved” conditions before making any decisions. An “approved” condition is one known to be so severe that it substantially hinders your ability to perform basic functions.

If it does appear on the approved conditions list, you may have a better chance of making a successful SSDI claim. If it does not, know that this does not automatically disqualify you from receiving SSDI benefits, either.