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Is your definition of disability the same as the SSA's?

If you suffer a serious injury or are diagnosed with a debilitating illness, you may think that you are qualified for Social Security disability benefits. Unfortunately, many people are denied benefits the first time they apply. So how do you know whether you will qualify?

The Social Security Administration has a very specific way of determining whether a person is disabled under its standards. The first thing it will consider is how your injury or illness impacts your ability to work. If you are able to continue working and earn more than $1,040 a month, you will not qualify. If your disability has prevented you from working, the administrative law judge will next consider the severity of your condition. 

To be considered severe, your illness or injury must leave you unable to perform your regular work-related activities. If this is true in your case, the administrative law judge will check the SSA's list of disabling conditions to make sure yours appears on it. If your condition is not on the list, the judge will have to determine whether your condition is at least as severe as conditions that do appear on the list.

Next, the judge will consider whether your condition affects your ability to perform the most recent job you held. If you can still carry out your job duties, you will be denied benefits. If you cannot, the judge will consider whether you can perform other types of work.

Ultimately, a person must have suffered a total disability in order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. However, even if you believe you will qualify, it may be helpful to work with an attorney who is familiar with the laws regarding SSD claims. Many people are denied benefits the first time they apply. Having someone on your side can make the appeal process much less stressful.

Source: Social Security, "Disability Planner: How We Decide If You Are Disabled," Dec. 10, 2013

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