Social Security Information
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
The definition of disability under Social Security is different than other programs. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability.
"Disability" under Social Security is based on your inability to work. They consider you disabled under Social Security rules if:
This is a strict definition of disability. Social Security program rules assume that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers' compensation, insurance, savings and investments.
To decide whether you are disabled, they use a step-by-step process involving five questions. They are:
1. Are you working?
Disability beneficiaries’ earnings limits: If you work while receiving disability benefits you must report your earnings no matter how little you earn. You may have unlimited earnings during a trial work period of up to nine months (not necessarily in a row) and still receive full benefits. Once you have completed your nine-month trial work period, Social Security will determine if you are still entitled to disability benefits. You also may be eligible for other work incentives to help you make the transition back to work.
2. Is your condition "severe"?
Your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered. If it does not, they will find that you are not disabled. If your condition does interfere with basic work-related activities, they go to Step 3.
3. Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?
For each of the major body systems, they maintain a list of medical conditions that are so severe they automatically mean that you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, they have to decide if it is of equal severity to a medical condition that is on the list. If it is, they will find that you are disabled. If it is not, they then go to Step 4.
4. Can you do the work you did previously?
If your condition is severe but not at the same or equal level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then they must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If it does not, your claim will be denied. If it does, they proceed to Step 5.
5. Can you do any other type of work?
If you cannot do the work you did in the past, they see if you are able to adjust to other work. They consider your medical conditions and your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills you may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied.
Most people who receive disability benefits are workers who qualify on their own records and meet the work and disability requirements they have just described. However, they want to point out some situations you may not know about:
Special Rules for People Who Are Blind
There are special rules for people who are blind or have low vision.
They consider you to be legally blind under Social Security rules if your vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in your better eye, or if your visual field is 20 degrees or less, even with a corrective lens. Many people who meet the legal definition of blindness still have some sight, and may be able to read large print and get around without a cane or a guide dog.
If you do not meet the legal definition of blindness, you may still qualify for disability benefits if your vision problems alone or combined with other health problems prevent you from working.
There are a number of special rules for people who are blind that recognize the severe impact of blindness on a person's ability to work. For example, the monthly earnings limit for people who are blind is generally higher than the limit that applies to non-blind disabled workers. This amount changes each year. In 2007, it was $1,500. In 2008, that amount increases to $1,570.
Benefits for Disabled Widows or Widowers
If something happens to you, benefits may be payable to your widow or widower with a disability if the following conditions are met:
Note: If your widow or widower caring for your children receives Social Security benefits, he or she is eligible if disability starts before those payments end or within seven years after they end.
Your widow or widower cannot apply online for survivors benefits based on their disability but he or she can get the process started by completing an Adult Disability Report before they contact SSA.
They use the same definition of disability for widows and widowers as they do for workers.
Benefits for Disabled Children
A child under age 18 may be disabled, but they don't need to consider the child's disability when deciding if he or she qualifies for benefits as your dependent. The child's benefits normally stop at age 18 unless he or she is a full-time student in an elementary or high school (benefits can continue until age 19) or is disabled.
For a child with a disability to receive benefits on your record after age 18, the following rules apply:
Note: An adult may become eligible for a disabled child's benefit from Social Security later in life.
For example, a worker starts collecting Social Security retirement benefits at age 62. He has a 38-year old son who has had cerebral palsy since birth. The son will start collecting a disabled "child's" benefit on his father's Social Security record.
Disability Benefits for Wounded Warriors
Military service members can receive expedited processing of disability claims from Social Security. Benefits available through Social Security are different than those from the Department of Veterans Affairs and require a separate application. The expedited process is used for military service members who become disabled while on active military service on or after October 1, 2001, regardless of where the disability occurs.
Cited Source: The above statements, regulations, policies, procedures, forms, governance, or laws, are cited from The U.S. Social Security Administration; The Department of Social Security; and/or their agencies, departments, affiliates, and/or subsidiaries. Any inaccuracies or misstatements should be brought to our attention immediately via the Contact Us link which can be found at the bottom of each page.