What Does It Mean to Be Disabled?
Dec. 10, 2019
For purposes of Social Security Disability Benefits and SSI benefits, in order to be found disabled, one must have a severe impairment, or combination of impairments, that prevent the person from performing substantial gainful activity (SGA) and the disability must be expected to last, or have lasted, for at least one year. In my 15 years of practicing Social Security Law, I have been asked numerous times if someone can be found partially disabled. The answer to this question, at least as it pertains to Social Security benefits, is “no.” Unlike with Veteran’s Disability benefits, where an individual can be found from 10% disabled up to 100% disabled, in Social Security claims, the individual must be found totally disabled and there is no percentage of disability. One is either found disabled or not disabled. That means, as far as payments are concerned, you either receive 100% of your benefit, or no benefits at all. This makes having a qualified representative who can assist you in receiving benefits vitally important.
I also get asked all the time whether Social Security looks at mental conditions when determining whether someone is disabled. The answer to this question is “yes.” Social Security will look at any and all conditions, both mental and physical, to determine whether the combination of all the conditions, and their limiting affects, prevent someone from performing full time substantial gainful employment. Please check out my website for more information on all of the above topics including what constitutes SGA.
Lastly, I get a lot of questions regarding whether an individual can get disability benefits because of alcohol or drug related problems. Congress has stated that the answer to this question, is “no.” Social Security law prohibits Social Security from paying disability benefits on the basis of alcoholism or drug addiction alone. However, if people suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction also have other physical and/or mental conditions which cause them to be disabled, then they may be entitled to disability benefits. However, if Social Security believes that drugs and/or alcohol caused a conditions or exacerbated a condition, they do not have to consider that condition for disability purposes.