How the SSA Defines Disability

If you’re applying for SSDI benefits soon, it’s recommended (and essentially “required) that you have an idea of how the SSA defines disability, in order to judge if you’re eligible in the first place. Bear in mind that the SSA’s definition of disability differs from other programs, and that compensation is awarded only for “total disability”—which means that if you’re partially disabled or are disabled for a short-term, you’re not eligible.

In a nutshell, the SSA considers an applicant disabled if he/she isn’t able to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment. Such impairment may be expected to lead to death, or something that’s lasted/expected to last for a continuous period spanning at least a full year.

On the other hand, substantial gainful activity (SGA) is defined by the SSA as work wherein a person earns more than a specified monthly amount. The amount of monthly income classified as SGA depends on the nature of an individual’s impairment. The SSA classifies work as “substantial” if it involves noteworthy physical or mental activities, or at times a combination of both. For work to be considered “gainful,” it must be performed for pay or profit.

Remember all of these pointers if you intend to apply for SSDI benefits to prevent confusion.


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