How Does the SSA Define “Disability”?
Disability Qualifications in Pennsylvania
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is the federal agency responsible for managing Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While the two disability benefit programs have some differences, primarily regarding work credits and asset levels, they have the same requirements in terms of how they define disabilities and qualify applicants for benefits based on these medical or mental disorders.
The SSA defines a disability as a medical condition that is severe enough
to prevent you from
substantial gainful activity for at least 12 months.
Substantial gainful activity, or SGA, is defined as working and earning $1,260 or more per month. The income limit for SGA changes year to year with inflation. It is $1,260 as of 2020.
Five Questions to Determine If You Have a Qualifying Disability
In determining whether you meet their definition of “disabled,” the SSA uses a five-step process to analyze your condition and its impact on your abilities.
Question One: Are You Working?
- You’re only considered disabled if you cannot earn enough money to make a living. If you’re not working at all or are earning less than $1,260 per month, the SSA should approve you at this level and pass your claim on to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD) for a medical review.
Question Two: Is Your Condition Severe?
- The BDD will need medical evidence that your condition affects your ability to do basic work. This may include sitting, standing, lifting, walking, remembering things, etc. This condition must be expected to last at least 12 months for you to be considered disabled.
Question Three: Is Your Condition on the SSA’s Listing of Impairments?
- The SSA maintains a Listing of Impairments, which contains medical conditions in a number of categories (neurological disorders, mental disorders, endocrine disorders, skin disorders, cancer, respiratory disorders, immune system disorders, etc.) that are generally so severe that they will prevent a person from working and earning a living. If your condition is on the Listing of Impairments, you should be considered disabled. If it is not, the Pennsylvania BDD will move on to the next step.
Question Four: Can You Do the Work You Did Previously?
- Your condition must prevent you from doing the work you used to do. If you can still do the same or similar job duties that you once performed, the BBD will most likely find that you are not disabled. If you cannot do the work you once did, the BDD will move on to the next step.
Question Five: Can You Do Any Other Work?
- Your condition must prevent you from learning another trade or doing another type of work, based on your age, work experience, education, skills, and more. To meet the SSA’s definition of disability, you must not be able to work in another field.
Find out more about disability qualifications and the definition of “disability” by calling our offices at (888) 498-3023 or filling out our online contact form. We serve York, Carlisle, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Hanover, and all of Pennsylvania.