How The SSA Determines If You’re Disabled

The benefit programs that Social Security offers to people with disabilities can be life-saving.  Many people served by these programs can continue to lead fulfilling lives, even after they’ve lost their ability to work or engage in other activities that gave their life meaning.

However, these programs can be very difficult to get approved for. While some people may apply for benefits when they don’t really need them,  many people with severe levels of impairment still face rejection even after multiple attempts.

What disability means to the SSA

When you apply for disability, you’ll submit documentation of your work history and other activities that you engage in on a regular basis. Together, these things will paint a picture ofyour life that the Social Security Administration will use to assess your level of impairment.

There’s also a minimum duration. To meet the standards for disability set by the Social Security Administration,  a person’s condition must be expected to last for at least 12 months, or be terminal. Some conditions, called “Compassionate Allowances,” are known to be severe in any case. Because these conditions will inevitably qualify a person for benefits, the process is expedited. Examples of Compassionate Allowances include cancers like acute leukemia and some forms of dementia.

What disability doesn’t mean

Regardless of your diagnosis, you’re considered to be disabled if your condition prevents you from making a normal income, and this isn’t isn’t expected to change any time soon.

Examples of disabling conditions that don’t often qualify for benefits include:

  • Broken bones, muscle strains, and sprains. Because these injuries don’t usually meet the definition of “permanent” set out by the SSA, they won’t qualify you for benefits. An exception would be if an injury led to a lasting impairment, such as when a broken bone heals improperly.


  • Common infectious diseases like influenza. These are disabling while they last, and do sometimes end in death. But if the infection is expected to resolve on its own, it won’t qualify you for benefits. Some conditions, like HIV/AIDS, may meet the requirements, however.


  • Active drug or alcohol abuse. While these things won’t disqualify a person outright, impairment caused by substance abuse isn’t a qualifying disability. If the impairment continues after a person stops using, however, it may qualify, but intoxication is not in itself a qualifying condition.


  • Any condition that doesn’t interfere with your ability to work, even if the condition is considered serious. For example, a person with diabetes may be able to work if their blood sugar is controlled with medication.

Special considerations

Social Security programs are selective, so even people with legitimate disabilities are rejected on a regular basis. The first time you apply, the odds aren’t necessarily in your favor. Funds are limited, and you’ll be expected to prove your case effectively.

We can help you do that. Call our offices, text us, or send an email, and we’ll help you put your case together. We have many years of experience helping people get the compensation they deserve. Schedule a free consultation today!