How does the Social Security Administration define disability? P.2

by | Apr 23, 2016 | Social Security Disability

Last time, we began looking at the definition of disability in the context of Social Security disability claims. As we noted, the term disability in this context is related to a claimant’s ability to engage in substantial gainful activity.  Generally speaking, then, it is fairly straightforward to determine whether individual is disabled for purposes of Social Security disability benefits.

In another sense, though, determining whether an individual is disabled for purposes of Social Security disability isn’t so straightforward. This is because a claimant for disability benefits must meet various other requirements established by the agency to actually qualify for benefits. 

The first thing to understand is that, in the Social Security disability system, there are no benefits for partial or short-term disability. The requirements are very specific, so there isn’t much room for flexibility in the term disability in the SSD benefits context.

Not only must one be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity, but the disabling condition must be severe enough that it interferes with basic work-related activities and prevents the claimant from performing any work. What you have, then, in terms of a definition of disability, is a condition which is severe enough to interfere with any basic work activity and which therefore prevents the claimant from being able to engage in substantial gainful activity.

Though we have somewhat simplified the claims criteria in these posts, it should be understood that SSD benefits requirements are very specific. In applying for benefits, it is important to always work with an experienced attorney to ensure one puts together the best possible claim.


Social Security Administration, “How Do We Define Disability?” Accessed April 21, 2016.

Social Security Administration, “Disability Planner: How We Decide If You Are Disabled,” Accessed April 21, 2016.


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