Social Security disability benefits are an important financial resource for those who are able to qualify for them, but being approved for benefits is not an easy matter.  Those who get in a bad enough spot to consider applying for Social Security disability benefits may expect a positive decision in their case, the reality is that most people who apply are not approved for benefits, even after pursuing the appeals process.

When applying for Social Security disability benefits, it is important for an applicant to put together the best possible application, providing the Social Security Administration with all the information they need to make an accurate decision. When an applicant doesn’t provide a fully completed and detailed application, delays can make the process drag out considerably. When an application is fully completed, it may still take months to hear back and it may be necessary to provided updated information when a decision is rendered, but there will at least be a greater consistency in the application and an avoidance of unnecessary delays. 

In making a decision on an application, the Social Security Administration uses a step-by-step process to determine whether an applicant qualifies for benefits. The first question is whether the applicant is “working,” by which is meant (in 2016) earning an average of $1,130 per month or more. Those who are working, under this definition, typically don’t qualify for benefits.

Those who are not working will next have their application scrutinized for the severity of their impairment. The general criterion for severity is that the applicant’s condition must interfere with basic work-related activities. If the applicant’s condition does not interfere with his or her work, he or she is determined not to be disabled.

In our next post, we’ll look at the considerations given to applicants whose condition does interfere with their ability to work.

Sources:, “Steps to successfully apply for Social Security disability,” Kelli B. Grant, Feb. 1, 2016.

Social Security Administration, “Disability Planner: How We Decide If You Are Disabled,” Accessed Feb. 2, 2016.