What is a Disability?

The Social Security Administration's Definition of "Disabled"

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is the government agency responsible for reviewing and approving or denying benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. The SSA is also responsible for dispensing benefits when claims are approved. A main part of eligibility for SSDI benefits is whether the applicant meets the SSA's definition of "disabled."

When an applicant sends a disability claim to the SSA, the agency will first check basic work eligibility requirements and, depending on whether the applicant meets those requirements, the SSA will send the claim on to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office in the applicant's state. This state agency has the responsibility of determining whether the applicant meets disability requirements. The DDS office may work with doctors and other healthcare professionals to determine whether the applicant's condition is disabling and will review all the facts of the case in making its decision. They may consider an applicant's ability to perform work other than what he or she was performing prior to becoming disabled. At times, an additional examination or multiple exams may be required for the DDS to accurately ascertain how much of an impact an applicant's health problems are having on his or her ability to work.

Though the exact steps taken may vary, there is a basic five-step process involved in determining whether an applicant is disabled.

  1. Is the applicant currently working? SSDI applicants must not be working and earning a certain amount of money to qualify as disabled.
  2. How serious is the applicant's medical condition? An applicant's medical condition must be severe and have a significant impact on his or her ability to work and even perform normal, day-to-day activities. The agency may consider its impact on memory, cognitive skills, sitting, walking, hand-to-eye coordination and more.
  3. Is the applicant's condition included in the List of Impairments? The DDS maintains a list of medical conditions so severe that they automatically qualify an applicant as disabled under the law. An applicant's condition should be on this list, or the agency will need to make a separate determination to see whether the condition is as serious as a condition that is included on the List of Impairments.
  4. Can the applicant perform the work he or she did before? If an applicant is able to perform he work he or she previously did, disability requirements are not met. If the applicant cannot work in the same capacity or field as before, the agency will move on to the final step.
  5. Can the applicant work at all? An applicant should not be able to engage in any form of gainful employment in order to qualify for and receive Social Security disability benefits. The agency will therefore consider whether the applicant can work in another field or capacity.

Talk to a New York Social Security Disability Attorney Today

In addition to meeting disability requirements, an applicant for Social Security disability benefits must meet specific work requirements. The applicant must have worked long enough and recently enough to earn enough work credits to qualify under the SSDI program. You can find out more about how to apply for benefits and whether you may be eligible by speaking with an attorney at Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. Our Social Security Disability Department is committed to representing disabled workers throughout New York, helping them seek benefits under the SSDI system. We can accurately determine whether you should qualify and can handle your claim and any necessary hearings or appeals, all while protecting your rights to the fullest extent.