What are the disability requirements for social security disability purposes?

The definition of disability for Social Security law purposes is a strict one. To be eligible for benefits, a person must be unable to do any kind of substantial gainful work because of a physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments), which is expected either to last at least 12 months or to end in death.

If, because of a medical condition, a person cannot do the work that they performed in the past, then age, education, and past work experience must be considered in determining whether the person can do other work. If the evidence shows that the person can do other work, even if it involves different skills or pays less than their previous work, they cannot be considered disabled for Social Security purposes.

The S.S.A. uses a step-by-step process to determine whether you will qualify as being disabled. The process includes the following five questions:

1.Are you working?
If you are and your earnings average more than $700 a month, you generally cannot be considered disabled.

2.Is your condition severe?
Your impairments must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered.

3.Is your condition found in the list of disabling impairments?
The S.S.A. maintains a list of impairments for each of the major body systems that are so severe they automatically mean you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, the S.S.A. will decide if your impairment is of equal severity to an impairment on the list. If it is, your claim is approved. If it is not, the S.S.A will go to the next step.

4.Can you do the work you did previously?
If your condition is severe, but not at the same or equal severity as an impairment on the list, the S.S.A. must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did in the last 15 years. If it does not, your claim will be denied. If it does, your claim will be considered further.

5.Can yo do any other type of work?
If you cannot do the work you did in the last 15 years, the S.S.A looks to see if you can do any other type of work. The S.S.A. considers your age, education, past work experience, and transferable skills, and they review the job demands of occupations as determined by the Department of Labor. If you cannot do any other kind of work, your claim will be approved. If you can, your claim will be denied.

For a listing of all disabling impairments, contact your local Social Security Administration office.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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