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Defining the Term “Disability”

Social Security Defines Disability in Terms of Your Capacity to Work

The term “disability” has a very specific meaning to the Social Security Administration. SSA defines disability as the “inability to engage in substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable condition or conditions that has lasted or is expected to last 12 consecutive months or result in death.”

As you can see, Social Security defines disability in terms of your capacity for work. Social Security is therefore asking if you could perform the duties of a simple, entry-level, unskilled job 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. If you would not be able to get through one of these simple jobs because of issues like:

  • pain and discomfort
  • problems concentrating
  • a need to take unscheduled breaks
  • the likelihood that you would miss 3 or more days per month

you would most likely meet Social Security’s definition of disability.

Sometimes our clients ask if it is enough that they cannot perform their past work. Your capacity for past work is important, but in most cases, we need to prove that you cannot perform any type of work in order to win.

Successful Courtroom Arguments

As your lawyers, we develop a strategy to win based on your specific medical or mental health issues. There are several approaches to proving disability that we use to meet SSA’s definition of disability. Specifically, the three most common disability arguments we use include:

  • proving that you meet a disability listing
  • proving that your capacity to perform even a simple, entry-level job has been so diminished by your
    medical problems that you would not be a reliable worker
  • proving that you should be deemed disabled because you meet a “grid rule,” based on your age, educational
    background and past work skills

Sometimes only one of these arguments may apply, and in other cases all three may be applicable. Either way, in order to convince a Social Security claims rep or, later, an Administrative Law Judge that you are disabled, we will need evidence in the form of a complete set of medical records as well as case specific checklist forms that we prepare.

Learn More About Your Rights

If you have questions regarding your case and about which disability argument may apply to you, please, contact us and schedule a free initial consultation at our Durham office. Our direct phone number is 919-794-4437 or toll free at 877-835-0923.

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