By Kathleen Overton, Attorney
As a social security disability lawyer in Liberty, Missouri, I frequently hear misconceptions about the disability program. The Social Security Administration’s disability program is unlike any other program that compensates for injury, such as Worker’s Compensation, personal injury, or private disability insurance. I will tackle each issue in turn.
Before understanding how the Social Security Disability program differs from other programs, it is important to know how the Social Security Administration defines disability. The Social Security Administration’s definition of disability states that an individual must have a severe impairment that has either lasted, or can be expected to last, for a minimum of one year. Further, the condition must prevent the person from engaging in substantial gainful activity—or work that grosses over a certain amount (currently $1090 gross a month) or is 40 hours a week. Notably, this definition is unlike any other definition of disability. Private insurance programs or even state programs may define disability differently. Understanding the Social Security Administration’s definition makes it is easier to recognize differences with other programs.
First, Social Security Disability does not compensate for partial disability. Having an impairment that poses some limitations is not sufficient to satisfy the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability. Indeed, a claimant may be limited from doing work they did before, but still not qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.
Second, Social Security Disability does not compensate for temporary disability. Rather, the claimant’s impairment and limitations must have either lasted, or be expected to last, for a minimum of one year. So, for example, if a claimant is in a severe car accident, hospitalized for a month, participates in rehabilitation, but makes a full recovery nine months after the accident, the claimant does not qualify for Social Security Disability, regardless of how severe their injuries during the previous nine months.
Third, Social Security Disability does not preclude all work activity. That is, a claimant may continue working while applying for disability benefits. As long as the work activity is less than 40 hours a week and results in gross earnings less than the substantial gainful activity level (currently $1170 gross a month), then a claim for Social Security Disability benefits is still possible.
And finally, Social Security Disability does not compensate merely for a diagnosis. It is not enough to have been diagnosed with diabetes, fibromyalgia, a herniated disc, or even cancer. Instead, the impairment must result in functional limitations that preclude full-time competitive work. Fibromyalgia that results in interrupted sleep and severe daytime fatigue may be sufficient to qualify for disability benefits, while fibromyalgia that can be controlled with medications and water aerobics will not qualify for benefits.
If a claimant has any questions about disability—whether they may qualify or even how the disability program fits with other programs—it is best to contact an experienced disability attorney.
If you have any questions for a Social Security disability lawyer in Liberty, MO, or any of our other 18 offices across Missouri, Kansas and Illinois please contact Parmele Law Firm for a free consultation.