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What is a disability? “Disability” is a fairly vague term that can mean a lot of different things in different contexts. According to the American Disability Association, a disability is any physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities.  Social Security takes this definition one step further by stating that in order to receive SSI benefits, a disability must prevent an individual from pursuing gainful employment.

In order to establish SSI eligibility under Social Security laws, someone with a disability:

  • Must not be working and earning too much money
  • Meet or equal in severity one of SSI’s listed physical or mental impairments.
  • Has a medical condition that has lasted at least one year or is expected to last at least a year or result in death

If, however, one’s disability does not meet or equal one of the listed impairments, someone can still prove that they are disabled if they cannot do their past work and Social Security cannot show that there is other work that they can do.  In determining if there is other work that one can do, Social Security will consider one’s physical and mental impairments and how it interferes with working.  SSA will also consider one’s age and any skills that will allow you to transfer to other work.

Even if you can do part-time work, you may still qualify for benefits.  If you can engage in what is called “substantial gainful activity,” however, SSA can rule that you are able to work and that you are not disabled.

Any good, experienced Chicago disability attorney will be able to explain to you in more detail what that means for your specific situation.

Getting Social Security Benefits: More Than Just Knowing What Is a Disability

While there is a strict Social Security definition telling you what is a disability, the requirements for Social Security benefits can still be very confusing. Social Security does maintain a listing of impairments that are considered disabilities, but because every person is different, it is possible that you may suffer from a disability that prevents you from working but is not included on this list.

If you are unsure whether you qualify for benefits or believe that you have been wrongfully denied benefits, contact an experienced Social Security lawyer. You can also get more answers to commonly asked Social Security questions by referring to these free resources and subscribing to our newsletter.