We all have an idea of what “disability” means, but this term has a specific definition in the context of the Social Security disability program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. A person with a “disability” has the inability “to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. 423 (d)(1)(A) and 1382c(a)(3)(A).
“Substantial gainful activity” is another specific term defined by Social Security, and we will discuss this on our next blog. However, the big take away from the definition of disability is this: it deals with a very serious health condition that interferes greatly with one’s ability to work and it must last or be expected to last 12 continuous months. This is why Social Security requires so much paperwork about a claimant’s physical and mental abilities; it must decide how those ability affect the claimant’s functioning in a work setting.