Social Security has specific definitions of what they consider 'disabled.'
The definition for adults depends on their ability to work.
Someone who is 18 or older may be considered disabled if:
They have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that:
Here's the specific definition of disability for adults:
Someone who has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that:
Means that they can’t perform substantial gainful activity
has lasted for at least 1 year (or will probably last for 1 year) OR may cause death
Medically Determinable means the impairment must be diagnosed by a doctor or other professional. In other words, Social Security doesn't just take your word for it. They'll ask for paperwork from your family member's doctor.
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) means a level of work activity and pay that is both substantial and gainful.
For work to be substantial, it does not need to be full time. Part-time work may also be considered as SGA.
For your work to be gainful, it needs to be:
done for pay or profit, or
the kind of work that is generally done for pay or profit, or
meant for profit, whether or not you actually get paid.
There are specific guidelines that tell you if your family member’s work counts as SGA. It will probably count as SGA if they earn over $1,130 a month. (There are different guidelines for people who are blind.) So if they earn less than that, they may qualify for SSI.
How does Social Security make a decision about disability?
To learn more:
Click on these links for more information from the Social Security website: (They will open in a new tab on your screen.)
Sources: Social Security, Jackins (2010).