When you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must have a severe impairment that keeps you from working. One question the Social Security Administration (SSA) asks to see if you qualify is, “Is your condition ‘severe'”?
It’s essential to understand what’s considered a “severe” disability. If your condition is not severe enough, you will not qualify for SSDI.
What Does Severe Disability Mean Under SSDI?
According to the SSA, you must have a condition that limits necessary activities like:
You must be unable to perform these actions for at least 12 months. If your condition does prevent you from basic working activities, you might qualify. If it does not, you won’t be able to get SSDI benefits.
SSDI only covers total disabilities. That means:
- Your disability has lasted (or is expected to last) for a year or more. Or, it’s expected to result in death.
- You cannot do any type of work you did before because of your condition.
- You cannot adjust to any other type of work because of your condition.
Social Security does not pay for short-term or partial disability. Your disability must be severe enough to keep you from working. The program assumes that workers can turn to other forms of assistance for short-term disabilities.
Substantial Gainful Activity
According to the SSA, a severe disability prevents you from performing substantial gainful activity (SGA). If you are earning more than a certain amount, the SSA will consider it SGA.
The threshold for SGA increases slightly each year. For 2020, SGA for non-blind individuals is $1,260 per month. For blind individuals, the SGA is $2,110 per month.
If you are making more than SGA, Social Security will not consider your condition severe enough. In other words, a severe disability will significantly impair your ability to earn a livable income.
What Are Some Examples of Severe Disabilities?
The SSA maintains a Listing of Impairments to use when looking at SSDI applications. The SSA has recognized that conditions on the list can be severe disabilities.
If your condition is on the list, it doesn’t mean you automatically qualify for SSDI. However, the SSA is more likely to consider you for disability benefits. If your condition is not on the list, the SSA will compare your disease to a listed one.
The adult listings include 14 categories of disabling conditions. Here are the groups and examples of listed conditions for each.
1. Musculoskeletal system disorders, including:
- Spine disorders
- Soft tissue injuries
- Reconstructive surgery of a major joint
2. Special senses and speech disorders, including:
- Loss of central visual acuity
- Contraction of the visual field in the better eye
- Visual impairment in the better eye
- Ménière’s disease
- Loss of speech
- Hearing loss not treated, or not treated with cochlear implantation
3. Respiratory disorders, including:
- Chronic respiratory disorders
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Chronic pulmonary hypertension
- Lung transplant
- Respiratory Failure
4. Cardiovascular system disorders, including:
- Chronic heart failure
- Ischemic heart disease
- Recurrent arrhythmias
- Symptomatic congenital heart disease
- Heart transplant
- Peripheral arterial disease
5. Digestive system disorders, including:
- Chronic liver disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Short bowel syndrome (SBS)
- Liver transplant
6. Genitourinary disorders, including:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Complications of chronic kidney disease
- Nephrotic syndrome
7. Hematological disorders, including:
- Sickle cell disease
- Disorders of bone marrow failure
8. Skin disorders, including:
- Bullous disease
- Chronic infections of the skin or mucous membranes
- Hidradenitis suppurativa
9. Endocrine disorders, including:
- Pituitary gland disorders
- Thyroid gland disorders
- Adrenal gland disorders
- Parathyroid gland disorders
10. Congenital disorders, including non-mosaic Down syndrome
11. Neurological disorders, including:
- Benign brain tumors
- Parkinsonian syndrome
- Cerebral palsy
- Spinal cord disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
12. Mental disorders, including:
- Neurocognitive disorders
- Depressive disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Eating disorders
13. Cancers, including:
- Soft tissue cancers of the head and neck
- Skin cancers
- Multiple myeloma
- Thyroid cancer
- Breast cancer
- Pancreas cancer
- Liver cancer
14. Immune system disorders, including:
- Immune deficiency disorders
- Inflammatory arthritis
- Sjögren’s syndrome
How Can I Prove a Severe Disability?
You will need to provide thorough proof of your medical condition when applying for SSDI. The medical evidence should show that your condition makes you unable to work and will last for at least a year.
The SSA will deny your application if it does not see enough evidence of a severe disability. If you are worried about getting approval, it’s best to work with an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer.
An SSDI lawyer can help you build a strong application. They will know what the SSA is looking for to approve a claim. If you have already been denied benefits, your lawyer can help you appeal the denial.
Talk to a Social Security Disability Lawyer for Free Today
Applying for SSDI can be stressful and frustrating. At John Foy & Associates, our goal is to make the process as straightforward as possible for you. We know what it takes to prove that you have a severe disability.
Contact us today for a FREE consultation. We’ll discuss your options and how we can help. Plus, we do not charge a fee unless we win your case.
To schedule your FREE, no-risk consultation, call (404) 400-4000, or contact us online.