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What Does “Disability” Actually Mean?

April 16, 2021 Disability

In common parlance, the term “disability” indicates that a person suffers from a condition that limits their ability to do certain things or engage in certain behaviors. But to obtain social security disability (SSDI) benefits, a claimant must do more than simply tell the Social Security Administration (SSA) that they are disabled. Rather, they must prove that they meet the SSA’s much more specific definition of the term before they can receive benefits. A Baltimore disability lawyer can walk you through the SSA’s definition of “disability” and help you determine whether you meet it. 

The SSA’s Definition of “Disabled” 

The SSA’s definition of the term “disabled” is more specific than its common meaning and also more specific than other government agencies that use the term. According to the SSA, a person is considered disabled when all of the following are true: 

  • The person cannot do the work they did before because of a medical condition
  • The person cannot do any other type of work because of a medical condition
  • The disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death 

The SSA also requires that the qualifying disability be total, as it does not provide any benefits for partial disability or short-term disability. 

Determining Whether You Are Disabled 

The SSA looks to several factors when determining whether an applicant meets its definition of “disabled.” Those factors are: 

Are you working?

If you are working in 2021 and your average monthly earnings are more than $1,310, the SSA will not consider you disabled

Is your condition “severe”?

A “severe” condition is one that significantly limits the sufferer’s ability to do basic work-related activities such as standing, walking, sitting, lifting, and remembering for at least 12 months. The SSA will not consider you disabled if your disability does not interfere with your work-related activities. 

Is your condition on the list of disabling conditions?

The SSA maintains a list of medical conditions that it considers severe enough to prevent a person from engaging in substantial gainful activity. The list includes conditions affecting the following body systems: 

  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Special senses and speech
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Digestive system
  • Genitourinary disorders
  • Hematological disorders 
  • Skin disorders
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems
  • Neurological disorders
  • Mental disorders
  • Cancer
  • Immune system disorder 

Can you do what you did previously?

Here, the SSA determines whether a claimant’s condition prevents him or her from engaging in the type of work he or she did before becoming disabled. 

Can you do any other type of work?

Even if a claimant cannot do the same work he or she did previously, he or she may be able to engage in another type of employment. If a claimant can transition to another line of work, he or she will not be considered disabled. 

Need Help Determining Whether You Qualify? Contact a Baltimore Disability Lawyer. 

It’s not always easy to determine whether you meet the criteria listed above, but an attorney can help you do so. For more information, please contact Baltimore disability lawyer Emmett B. Irwin by using our online form or calling us at 443-839-0818.