The Top 5 Must-Know Terms in Social Security Disability

Navigating the complex system of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can be daunting. The terminological landscape is brimming with acronyms and legal jargon that can quickly become overwhelming. However, understanding a few key terms can significantly ease this journey. 

Here are the top 5 must-know terms in Social Security Disability, broken down in detail.

1. Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

Substantial Gainful Activity is a term that packs a punch in the world of Social Security Disability. The concept is used to quantify the level of work activity and earnings that would preclude one from receiving disability benefits. This is not merely a fixed dollar amount; it’s indexed annually for inflation and can also vary depending on the nature of the disability. 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers not just your earnings but also the “value” of your work if you’re self-employed, or even unpaid work, if it amounts to substantial activity. This term is pivotal because meeting or exceeding SGA will likely result in a denial of benefits, making it a primary gatekeeping mechanism in the application process.

2. Sequential Evaluation Process

The Sequential Evaluation Process is a five-step analytical framework employed by the SSA to assess your eligibility for disability benefits. This evaluation process scrutinizes current work activity, the severity and type of medical condition, the capability to perform past relevant work, and, finally, the ability to engage in other types of work based on age, education, and work experience. This structured algorithm aids the SSA in making consistent and transparent decisions. If you fail any of these steps, you’re unlikely to be classified as “disabled” under SSA standards.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Is the individual working above SGA level?
  2. Is the individual’s physical/mental condition severe?
  3. Does the individual’s medical condition meet or equal the severity of an eligible disability?
  4. Can the individual do any of his/her past relevant work?
  5. Can the individual make an adjustment to any other work?

3. Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)

Residual Functional Capacity is a comprehensive measurement that encompasses both your physical and mental capacities in the context of work-related activities. RFC takes into account not just medical conditions but also other impairments you might have, whether they are exertional (lifting, standing, walking) or non-exertional (mental, sensory, or environmental limitations). The SSA uses your RFC to determine what type of work, if any, you can perform, thereby affecting your eligibility for benefits.

4. Date Last Insured (DLI)

The Date Last Insured is, in essence, an expiration date for your disability benefits based on your work history and contributions to the Social Security system. If you haven’t worked for an extended period, there will come a point when you are no longer “insured” for disability benefits under SSDI. Knowing your DLI is crucial because, to qualify for benefits, you must prove that you became disabled on or before this date. After the DLI has passed, you might lose your eligibility for SSDI, though you may still technically qualify for SSI.

5. Blue Book

The colloquially termed “Blue Book” is an official SSA publication that enumerates the impairments and associated criteria required for receiving disability benefits. This guide serves as the foundation for most disability determinations and provides an exhaustive list of conditions, broken down by bodily system, that could qualify one for benefits. For each listed condition, the Blue Book also outlines the specific medical evidence required to substantiate a claim.

The Best Way to Prepare

Understanding these five terms is only scratching the surface of understanding social security disability. However, your best tool in the endeavor to secure the social security disability benefits that you deserve is a qualified attorney at your side.

Click here or call (833) 613-0618 for a free consultation with a social security disability lawyer, who can help you navigate the maze of the application process and get you closer to the benefits you need.

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