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Understanding the definition of “disability” for SSDI benefits

| Jun 10, 2021 | Firm News

Most residents of Indiana are aware that they can obtain financial aid from the Social Security Administration (SSA) if they should become disabled by an accident or other medical condition. Unfortunately, the exact definition of “disability” is not widely known or understood. Understanding the definition of “disability” can help a person decide whether to make an application for benefits.

Definition of disability

As stated in the Code of Federal Regulations, “disability” is defined “as the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or medical impairment. . . .” The regulations further define “substantial gainful activity” as the ability to earn more than $1,310 per month.

The disability must be diagnosed as permanent or reasonably likely to lead to death within 12 months of diagnosis.

The SSA has compiled an extensive list of illnesses and injuries are deemed to be disabling. If a person’s condition is on the list, the road to receiving benefits will be much smoother. If a person is suffering from an illness or injury that is not on the SSA’s list, benefits may still be awarded if the person can prove that he or she is in fact disabled by a medical illness or injury.

Ability to do other work

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the government definition of “disability” is the requirement that the applicant cannot receive benefits if he or she is able to do other work and earn in excess of the limiting amount stated abov. The disabling condition must prevent a person from performing basic work-related activities such as lifting, standing, walking or sitting. The Social Security Administration will look an applicant’s ability to do other work and whether the person has skills that can be transferred from one job to another.

Most SSDI claims are initially denied. While the SSA has regulations setting forth an extended appeal process, the advice and assistance of a lawyer who is experienced in the disability claims process can enhance a person’s chances of ultimately receiving benefits.