What is the Standard of Disability Required to Qualify for SSDI Benefits?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are designed to make up for income lost due to a medical condition or disease that prevents a person from performing gainful employment. Unlike the social security benefits you receive when you retire, SSDI does not have any age requirements. However, there are other standards you must meet, including proof of having a qualifying disability.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), a disability is the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” SGA is work that produces earnings above a certain dollar amount. In 2020, that level is $1,260 per month for non-blind individuals and $2,110 for the blind.

The impairment must result from an anatomical, physiological or psychological abnormality that can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. Some of the conditions that qualify as totally disabling include musculoskeletal issues that affect the back, visual impairment, hearing impairment, cardiovascular conditions, digestive conditions, neurological diseases and disorders and blood disorders.

Other medical conditions may also meet the definition of disabled for purposes of SSDI. If your impairment limits your daily activities to such a degree of severity that you can’t perform any function in the workforce, you may be able to qualify. The SSA considers evidence from medical and nonmedical sources to make this assessment. Medical sources are doctors who have evaluated, examined, or treated the applicant for his or her impairment, as well as hospitals, clinics or other health facilities. Nonmedical sources include educational personnel, public and private social welfare agency personnel, family members, caregivers, friends, neighbors, employers and clergy.

Just because you satisfy these requirements, however, doesn’t mean you will automatically receive SSDI benefits when you file your application with the SSA. One of the frustrating realities of SSDI benefits is that the vast majority of applicants — two thirds or more — are initially denied, due to errors in their applications or to failure to supply sufficient documentation. While you can appeal, working with an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer from the beginning can increase your chances of getting your application approved and starting to receive your benefits sooner.

The Social Security Disability lawyers at Massengill, Caldwell & Coughlin, P.C. in Bristol, Tennessee help people who have become too physically or mentally impaired to earn a living. Call us at 423-797-6022 or contact us online to schedule your free introductory consultation.