What Is a Disability? And What Does It Mean to Be Disabled?

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2021 | Social Security Disability |

Can you no longer do your job because of a physical or mental health condition? If so, you may be considered “disabled” under the law and qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

But what does it mean to be “disabled” according to the Social Security Administration? And what injuries and illnesses will qualify you for disability benefits?

What Does “Disabled” Mean?

SSDI benefits are available to people who are totally disabled. That’s because Social Security expects those who are suffering from a short-term disability to rely on insurance, savings, investments, and workers’ comp.

Before you can receive SSDI benefits, you’ll need to satisfy three conditions.

  1. You must not be able to do the same work you did before you became disabled.
  2. You must not be able to perform other jobs.
  3. Your disability must either last a year or longer or must lead to death.

If you’re working and earning more than $1,310 per month, you aren’t eligible for SSDI benefits. If you aren’t working, then the Social Security Administration will evaluate your medical condition to determine whether you qualify for benefits.

Injuries and Illnesses That Qualify As Disabilities for Social Security Disability

The Social Security Administration uses a set of criteria to review your medical condition. Qualifying conditions fit into one of 14 categories established by the Social Security Administration.

  • Musculoskeletal disorders: These disorders involve the spine and extremities, including deformities, amputations, and other abnormalities affecting your bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and soft tissues (excluding arthritis).
  • Sense and speech disorders: Visual disorders including blindness, hearing loss, and vertigo are examples of potentially qualifying disabilities in this category.
  • Respiratory disorders: Qualifying diseases that affect your ability to breathe include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis and pneumoconiosis, asthma, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, respiratory failure, chronic pulmonary hypertension, and lung transplantation.
  • Cardiovascular impairments: Any disorders, whether congenital or acquired, that affect the heart or circulatory system (arteries, veins, capillaries, and lymphatic drainage) can qualify for benefits. Examples include heart disease, chronic heart failure, artery blockages, fainting or passing out, and central cyanosis.
  • Digestive system disorders: Qualifying disorders include gastrointestinal hemorrhage, liver dysfunction, inflammatory bowel disease, short bowel syndrome, and malnutrition and the complications that result from these disorders.
  • Genitourinary disorders: Problems that lead to chronic kidney disease typically qualify, including chronic glomerulonephritis, hypertensive nephropathy, diabetic nephropathy, chronic obstructive uropathy, and hereditary nephropathies.
  • Hematological disorders: Disorders that disrupt the development and functioning of white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and clotting-factor proteins are covered here. Specifically, this category includes hemolytic anemias, thrombosis, and hemostasis disorders.
  • Skin disorders: This category includes ichthyosis, bullous diseases, chronic infections of the skin or mucous membranes, dermatitis, genetic photosensitivity disorders, and burns.
  • Endocrine disorders: Hormonal imbalances resulting from disorders affecting major glands, including your pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, and pancreas glands, may qualify for disability benefits.
  • Congenital disorders that affect multiple systems: This category includes non-mosaic Down syndrome, which may include symptoms such as delayed physical development, intellectual disability, congenital heart disease, impaired vision, hearing problems, and other problems.
  • Neurological disorders: This is a broad category that covers epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, coma or persistent vegetative state, and neurological disorders such as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
  • Mental disorders: Within this category are a number of subcategories listing potentially covered conditions, including neurocognitive disorders, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders, somatic symptom and related disorders, personality and impulse-control disorders, autism, neurodevelopmental disorders, eating disorders, and trauma- and stress-related disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Cancer: This category covers all cancers except those associated with HIV infections. Stage III cancers and beyond are almost certainly to qualify, along with particularly aggressive cancers, such as liver cancer.
  • Immune system disorders: Autoimmune disorders, immune deficiency disorders, and HIV may qualify under this category. This category also includes rheumatoid arthritis if it’s severe enough to affect your ability to work.

What Should I Do If I Have One of These Medical Disorders?

To qualify for SSDI benefits, you’ll need to have an official diagnosis from your doctor along with testing results that show your impairment. But even that doesn’t guarantee results. It’s hard to get SSDI benefits, and the guidance of a skilled disability lawyer can be beneficial.

If you have questions about whether your medical condition qualifies for disability benefits, reach out to us today for a free consultation at 704-251-2945 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and 804-297-0838 in Richmond, Virginia.

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