Definition of Disability

Massachusetts Lawyers Dedicated to Assisting Social Security Applicants

If you are injured in a workplace accident, or find yourself developing a medical condition that affects your day-to-day life, you may find that you are unable to perform the tasks you once did or participate in activities you previously enjoyed. In certain circumstances, your limitations may become so severe that you become disabled and unable to work. The difficulty for many individuals is determining what truly constitutes a disability and how it is defined. At Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C., our Social Security attorneys have extensive experience helping Massachusetts residents understand what disability entails and how to determine if they qualify.

Defining Disability

Although the term disability may be used generally to describe individuals who face serious limitations as a result of physical or mental ailments, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must be more precise in its definition in order to determine who qualifies for benefits. According to the SSA, a disability is a long-term physical or mental medical condition that renders an individual unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (essentially, work). In order to meet this definition, disabled individuals must satisfy three criteria:

  • They cannot perform the type of work they did prior to the development of their physical or mental condition;
  • They cannot perform other types of work because of their physical or mental condition; and
  • Their physical or mental condition has persisted for at least 12 months or is expected to cause death.
How the SSA Determines Who Is Disabled

With thousands of applications for benefits every year, the SSA has developed a thorough process for evaluating which individuals meet the definition of disability. This process, which has five steps, is laid out in brief form here. First, the SSA must determine whether an applicant is working and, if so, how much income the individual is receiving. If his or her monthly income is above a set threshold (currently around $1,070), the claimant cannot be considered disabled.

If the applicant is not working, the SSA then considers whether his or her medical condition has persisted for at least 12 months and can be considered severe. A condition is severe when it interferes with the basic ability to work, as determined through an evaluation of medical evidence. If the applicant’s condition is severe, the SSA then evaluates whether the condition is included in the SSA’s book of listings. If it is, the applicant is deemed to meet the definition of disability. If not, the SSA considers two more factors in evaluating the applicant: whether the applicant can do the work he or she did prior to the disability application and, if not, whether he or she could perform any other type of work available in the national economy. If the answer to both questions is no, the applicant will be determined to be disabled.

Discuss Your Government Benefits Application with a Massachusetts Attorney

Before investing time and effort into the process of applying for disability, it is important for potential applicants to have a realistic sense of the requirements of disability status and how it is defined. While many individuals are designated as disabled each year, the standard is a high one and can be difficult to meet. At Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C, our government benefits lawyers can advise Massachusetts residents on the eligibility process for SSDI. If your mental or physical impediments severely affect your ability to work, we will fight for your right to benefits before the SSA and in the courtroom. From our Boston offices, we represent individuals in Norfolk, Plymouth, and Sussex Counties, as well as in New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Contact us for more information at (800) 367-0871 or online.