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Defining 'disability' for the purposes of Social Security

It goes without saying that in order to be awarded Social Security disability benefits, one must be disabled. Yet, it is important for Pennsylvanians to understand that the Social Security administration has a very strict definition of what "disability" means.

For purposes of Social Security disability benefits, the term "disability" refers to a total disability. This is unlike other definitions of disability, which may include short-term or partial disability. To receive Social Security disability benefits, it must be shown that the applicants are unable to perform the job duties they were able to before becoming disabled, that they are unable to do other types of work and that their medical condition will last one year or more or will be fatal. If any one of these three prongs is not met, the applicant may not be considered "disabled" and may be denied benefits.

The reason that this definition of disability is so strict is that the rules regarding Social Security assume that the applicant still has sources to other types of income if their disability is short-term, such as health insurance, workers' compensation, investments and savings. For these reasons, for the purposes of Social Security disability benefits, the applicant's disability must be total.

This may seem like a harsh definition, but it can be fulfilled. Applicants may have many questions when it comes to applying for Social Security disability benefits. After all, these benefits can be essential in allowing the applicant to take care of themselves. The costs associated with having a disability can be high, making Social Security disability benefits all the more necessary. When applying for Social Security disability benefits it is important to fully and accurately complete each step of the application process. Because of this, many applicants choose to seek legal help when applying for benefits.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Disability Planner: What We Mean By Disability," Accessed Jan. 5, 2015

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