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How does the SSA define a disability?

If you are hurt or develop an illness that renders you incapable Of working, you may be eligible for the Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA), these benefits are meant to help beneficiaries pay bills, medications and other essentials like food and clothing. 

To qualify for SSD benefits, however, your condition must satisfy the SSA’s legal definition of a disability. Of course, this definition is never straightforward. 

Understanding the SSA’s definition of a disability

Basically, Social Security defines a disability as any mental or physical condition that prevents you from working for 12 months or longer. This includes terminal conditions like mesothelioma. In other words, you may be eligible for SSD benefits if your physical or mental illness prevents you from working in your current role or in another role for at least one year. 

So what conditions does the SSA consider disabling?

The SSA’s Blue Book outlines the conditions that meet the legal threshold of a disability. This list is updated periodically, meaning that you can still qualify for disability benefits even if your condition is currently not in the Blue Book. That said, here are some of the conditions that qualify for disability benefits:

  • Musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders like some forms of amputations, arthritis and chronic back pain
  • Nervous system disorders like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and brain tumors.
  • Cardiovascular conditions 
  • Mental disorders
  • cancer

Other conditions that may qualify for disability benefits include pregnancy or blood disorder-related complications, broken bones, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. 

Does your condition meet the SSA’s definition of a disability?

Establishing whether your condition is disabling per the SSA standards is just one step toward pursuing the disability benefits you may be entitled to. Learning more about the SSD benefits application process can help improve your chances of filing a successful disability claim


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