Yes, everyone likely believes their condition is severe enough to keep them from working. But in fact, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has its own definition of severity. In order to qualify for disability benefits, one must meet this stringent requirement.
But, let's step back and look at the bigger picture as well.
First, one must complete 5 sequential steps in order to be found disabled. In their exact order a person must qualify as such:
1. He or she must not be working and earning above a certain level. SSA call this Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) when a person is still working and making over the statutory amount. Since this is the first step in determining if a person is disabled, then one must be below SGA in order to move on to Step 2.
2. His or her condition must be severe. (More on this one after explaining the five steps).
3. SSA will determine if a person meets a Medical Listing for his or her impairment. If a person does meet a medical listing, and he or she satisfies Step 1 and 2, then he or she will receive Social Security disability benefits (either SSDI or SSI or a combination of both). If a person cannot meet the requirements of Step 3, then he or she is allowed to move onto Step 4.
4. A person attempting to qualify for benefits cannot do any work he or she has performed in the last 15 years. Each job must have been done long enough in order to have learned how to do it. If a person can return to some kind of work he or she has performed in the past, then there will be a finding of not disabled. If a person cannot return to any job performed within the last 15 years, then he or she is allowed to move onto Step 5.
5. There are no other kinds of jobs within the national economy a person can do even despite his or her limitations. Sadly, this also includes any simple work even if the person is overqualified and would likely not be hired in the first place. Therefore, if a person is going to be denied disability benefits, most of the time he or she loses at Step 5.
Now, back to the severity requirement.
In order to satisfy Step 2, and be able to continue on through the remaining steps, a person's condition must be expected to last 12 months or more or lead to death. This means, that if you have some kind of impairment which keeps you from working, your condition must be at least expected to last at least 1 year or be severe enough to lead to your death.
Also, your condition must be severe enough that it interferes with your ability to perform basic work activities. Examples of this would be: walking, lifting, bending, carrying, sitting, talking, concentrating, squatting, pushing, pulling, etc.
Therefore, before attempting to file for disability benefits, it is very important to educate yourself on how to satisfy each of these 5 steps. If you are denied, then you can at least determine at what step you failed, and when you file your appeal, perhaps correct your prior mistake and increase your chances of success.
We represent Claimants throughout Texas and California fighting for their Social Security disability benefits. If you need to reach us, you can always do so at: (888) 780-9125.