Do I Qualify for Disability?


It is not uncommon for a disabled person to be shocked by the answer they receive when asking of the SSA, “Can I get disability benefits?” Unfortunately, the SSA’s core definition of a qualifying disability does not quite fall in line with that of the ADA’s, so you may face some difficulty in getting financial assistance for what would typically be considered a qualifying condition. To assist you in applying, it is important to fully understand the complete guidelinesfor disability benefits.

What to Know About Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not follow the definition of disability as it truly is, rather, a somewhat extreme version of the condition. The American With Disabilities Act defines a disability as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Yet, on the other hand, the SSA only recognizes disabilities as those physical or mental conditions that prevent the individual’s ability to engage in a “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). Rather than using the quality of life as a metric for this standard, the ability to participate in an SGA is measured by an individual’s monthly earnings.

The threshold for the SGA is adjusted annually to account for inflation. This year, it is set at $1,260 per month. If you earn any more than this, you are not recognized as a disabled person, regardless of your medical documentation, or your experience with your physical or mental condition. This rule does not exclude contracted or self-employed workers. Instead, there are different methods of testing qualifications for those individuals.

You must be careful with these standards of qualification, in any case. The more part-time hours you claim to be able to work, the more the SSA will expect you to work, ultimately, until you’re working full-time. Your ability to work is just as important to qualify as your actual engagement in work and could thwart your attempts at procuring financial support.

Further Details on Qualifying for SSA Assistance

Once you’ve overcome the first barrier of income and part-time working capabilities, you must further prove your need for SSA support by providing additional information on your condition. You must verify that you live with a professionally diagnosed, serious health problem. The SSA declares that this condition must be a “medically-determinable physical or mental impairment” that is characterized by one of the following:

  • The condition is expected to end in death.
  • The condition is expected to last or has lasted for 12 consecutive months.

After this, the SSA will then determine your residual functional capacity (RFC), or your ability to perform or participate in certain activities, in consideration of your disability. For this step, you must supply all medical documentation and any supporting paperwork from other experts, yourself, family, and friends. If your RFC is found to have substantial limitations, you will most likely qualify for disability benefits.

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Keep in mind that, if you are found to qualify, you will receive assistance via one of the two distinct programs, Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Carefully review your income and medical documentation and hire legal assistance if necessary to determine your eligibility for support from the SSA.

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