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How does the Social Security Act define "disability"?

Many Missourians who are contemplating filing a claim for disability benefits under the Social Security Act will want to know and understand how the statute defines "disability." In this post, we will review the statutory language and explain how the Social Security Administration or SSA uses the language in evaluating SSD claims.

In order to receive SSD benefits, a person must be permanently and totally unable to work. No benefits are payable for a partial or temporary disability. The term "totally disabled" means that the applicant must be unable to engage in "substantial gainful activity" for a period of at least one year. Substantial gainful activity is measured by a person's annual wages from work. In 2016, a person who earns less than $1,130 per month is considered to be totally disabled.

The medical condition upon which the claim is based must interfere with the applicant's basic work-related tasks, such as standing, lifting, moving and the like. A person who is blind is automatically considered totally disabled.

The SSA has complied an extensive list of "disabling conditions," and if the applicant's illness or injury on this list and if that illness or injury is the cause of the disability, the application for SSD benefits will be approved. If the illness or injury is not on this list, the SSA will conduct a functional capacity exam to determine what other jobs the applicant might be capable of doing.

In the end, the SSA will consider an applicant disabled if he or she is unable to work at the previous job, if the applicant cannot adjust to another job and if the disability has lasted at least one year(or is expected to result in death. The application process can be complex for some applicants, resulting in many questions and potential setbacks; therefore, it might be helpful to seek assistance. A knowledgeable lawyer can assist an applicant in compiling the necessary work and medical information and, if the claim should be denied, advise the applicant on his or her appeal rights.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Disability Planner: What We Mean By Disability," accessed on July 10, 2016

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