The term "disability" can mean different things to different people, from physical injuries and illnesses to genetic conditions that affect how a person functions in society.
No matter how we define the word "disability," we can all agree on one fact: disabilities affect people in different ways, sometimes to the point where a person may be unable to work and earn a living because of their condition.
When considering disabilities and access to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, there are four main things to keep in mind:
1.) The Social Security Administration's definition of disability.
You may be considered disabled by SSA is you:
- Are unable to work as you did before
- Cannot adjust to other work because of your condition
- Have been told by doctors that your condition will last for no less than a year
- Have been told by doctors that you will pass away from your condition
2.) SSA only considers long-term disabilities.
It's very important to know that short-term or temporary disabilities do not qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits. That's because SSA assumes you have access to other resources, including savings, workers' compensation or short-term disability insurance.
As an example, even though a broken bone can make work difficult or impossible and make it difficult to adjust to other work, a broken bone would not qualify for SSDI or SSI because it does not meet all of the bullet points above, specifically the last two.
3.) Disabilities aren't always apparent from the outside.
Things like learning disabilities, mental health conditions and chronic pain are not apparent from the outside, however, they can qualify a person for SSDI and SSI benefits. Just because someone looks "normal," doesn't mean they don't meet the strict SSA requirements above.
In fact, there are a number of conditions on the Compassionate Allowances Conditions list that immediately qualify someone for SSDI and SSI benefits, but you wouldn't be able to tell the individual had a disability just by looking at them.
4.) You may need to appeal the decision for your disability benefits.
According to the most recent SSA statistics, more than 70 percent of initial applications for disability benefits are denied for various reasons. In many cases, this even happens to people with legitimate claims.
When a legitimate application is denied, an applicant has the right to appeal the decision. It's important to know that this process can be incredibly complex and should be handled by someone with considerable experience with the process, such as a qualified Social Security disability attorney.