A Tampa Social Security attorney answers the question, “What does the Social Security Administration mean by ‘disabled’?”
As a Tampa Social Security attorney, I see a lot of Tampa Social Security disability claimants, and many of them are confused by the Social Security Administration definition of “disability.”
The definition is confusing because the word “disabled” is defined differently by other agencies, and the Social Security definition is very technical.
This brief overview may help you begin to understand how the Social Security Administration will evaluate your Tampa Social Security case.
How can I tell if I qualify as “disabled”?
If you have an extreme or life-threatening condition such as terminal cancer or total paralysis, then it is obvious that you qualify as disabled according to the Social Security Administration.
Otherwise, it is not always easy to predict whether the Social Security Administration will rule that your condition is disabling. Just because you feel that you are disabled, or even if your doctor tells you that you are disabled is not enough.
The Social Security Administration has a very technical definition for “disability.” If you are unable to work then you should file for benefits. If your request is denied, consulting with a Social Security attorney is best. Tampa Social Security attorneys will be able to give you an opinion about the chances of success on appeal.
Is the definition of “disabled” the same as with other agencies?
No. It might be easier if everyone meant the same thing by “disabled” but they don’t.
The Veteran’s Administration, various workers compensation programs, insurance policies, and the Social Security Administration all have their own different definitions of “disabled.” An experienced Tampa Social Security attorney will be able to explain the differences.
What is the Social Security Administration definition of “disabled”?
With the Social Security Administration, the definition of “disability” is based on your ability to work.
To qualify as “disabled” for purposes of Tampa Social Security disability, you have to satisfy three things (in the opinion of the Social Security Administration):
- You have a severe physical or mental condition that has lasted or is expected to last for a year or result in death.
- You cannot do the work that you used to do because of your condition.
- You cannot adjust to other work because of your condition.
What does “other work” mean in the context of my Tampa Social Security claim?
For the Social Security Administration, “other work” can mean almost anything. It does not mean work in your local area or work that you want to do. The Social Security Administration requires that your disability prevents you from doing “any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.”
Since there is some sort of job for almost everyone, it can be difficult to meet the threshold “disability” requirement.
The Medical-Vocational Guidelines consist of three charts, called grids, that determine whether you are disabled for different combinations of maximum physical residual functional capacity (RFC), age, education and work experience. RFC is the level of work you can still do despite your impairments. For physical impairments, it is expressed in terms of whether you can do medium, light, or sedentary work.
The fundamental principle of the Guidelines is the concept of vocational adaptability. Younger, better-educated people with work experience are more adaptable to job changes despite a decline in RFC caused by a medical impairment.
Here is a very simplified summary of the Medical-Vocational rules. A Tampa Social Security attorney can explain further.
- Claimants 55 or older. As a general rule, you have to prove that you cannot do “medium” work–frequently lifting 25 pounds, and occasionally lifting up to 50 pounds and standing or walking for most of the day. But you can be capable of doing light work and still be found disabled.
- Claimants 50 through 54. As a general rule, you have to prove that you cannot do “light” work–lifting up to 20 pounds and standing or walking most of the day. Even though you might still be able to do a sedentary job, you can still be found disabled.
- Claimants under 50. As a general rule, you have to prove that you can’t do an easy sit-down job or even a job where you’re allowed to alternate between sitting and standing during the workday.
Call or email for help from a Tampa Social Security attorney
I help Florida, St. Petersburg, and Tampa Social Security disability claimants understand the process and I can guide them through the hearing process.
If you want your claim evaluated by an experienced Tampa Social Security attorney, fill out the evaluation form to the right, or email or call my office.