Determining "disability" in claims for SSDI benefits


Many people in Stockton and elsewhere in the Central Valley are aware of the federal benefit program known as Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, but they are uncertain about how the Social Security Administration determines permanent disability. The definition is not complex, and an understanding of the term may assist people who are uncertain about whether they qualify for benefits.

The first question is whether an applicant is employed. If a person is employed and earning more than $1,220 per month, that person cannot be considered disabled. The next question is how the condition prevents the applicant from performing basic work tasks, such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting and remembering. If the condition is not expected to last for at least 12 months, the application will be rejected.

The next step is to ascertain whether the condition is found on the SSA's list of disabling conditions. If the illness or injury is on the list, the claim will most likely be approved. If the disabling condition is not on the list, the SSA will determine whether the applicant can perform substantial gainful activity. "Substantial gainful activity" is defined as earning more than $1,220 per month.

The SSA will also determine whether the applicant is able to perform the duties of his or her previous job or perform any other type of work. If the answer to either question is "yes," the application will likely be denied. If both questions are answered in the negative, the SSA may decide that the applicant is disabled, and benefits will be granted.

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