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How does the SSA define 'disability' under the SSDI program?

Many Houston residents who suffer a disabling illness or injury want to know if they are eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. The answer depends upon the severity of the disabling condition and its expected resolution. The Social Security Administration or SSA, the federal agency that administers the SSDI program has established several important criteria that must be satisfied before a person can receive disability benefits.

The basic definition of "disability" states that a claimant must have a medically determinable physical or mental condition that prevents him or her from engaging in any "substantial gainful activity." The condition must be expected to result in death or to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months. In seeking disability benefits, a claimant must provide written evidence from a medically acceptable clinic or laboratory that the illness or injury exists.

A careful reading of the basic definition shows that another term requires explanation: substantial gainful activity or SGA. SGA is defined by the amount of income a disabled person can earn in a month. A person who is able to earn more than the specified maximum will not be regarded as disabled. Persons who are blind are allowed a higher SGA than non-blind persons. For 2018, the monthly SGA for blind persons is $1,970, and for non-blind persons, the SGA is $1,180.

A successful application for SSDI benefits must include complete and persuasive medical records, personnel records and the other information required by the SSA. A knowledgeable SSDI attorney can provide important assistance in gathering the information, assembling the application and submitting the application to the proper SSA field office. If an application is initially denied, a capable SSDI lawyer can assist in appealing the decision.

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