Social Security’s Definition of Disability
In order to be eligible for Social Security disability, you must be disabled. For Social Security purposes, a person is disabled if he/she has a medical problem that prevents that person from working a full time job. In addition, the medical problem must be severe enough that it will last at least a year.
As a practical matter, Social Security disability is primarily about a person’s ability to work. Stated another way, in order to prove that you are disabled, you often need to prove that you cannot work even a simple, unskilled job 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. For example:
- imagine yourself working as an packer, where you sit at a table and pack items in a box;
- imagine yourself as a cashier at a parking lot;
- imagine yourself as a nighttime security system monitor.
Could you perform one of these very simple, low stress, low exertion jobs 8 hours a day, 5 days a week?
How Does Part Time Work Fit into SSA’s Definition of Disabled?
In theory, a person who only has the capacity to work part time – maybe 5 hours a day, 4 days a week – could still be found disabled. In reality, however, it is very difficult to win disability benefits if you are working part time or the evidence shows that you have the capacity to work part time on a regular basis.
- First, most Social Security administrative law judges will conclude that if you have the capacity to work Job “A” part time, then you probably have the capacity to work slightly easier Job “B” full time.
- Second, a judge might conclude that you are working part time because that is all your employer will offer, or that you don’t want to work full time, perhaps because of child care or aging parent responsibilities.
- Third, it would be very difficult for a judge to draw lines when it comes to your capacity. How can the judge be sure that your maximum capacity is only 5 hours a day. What evidence can you present to prove this limited capacity?
Our experience has been that Social Security judges see disability claims in black and white – either you are disabled or you are not. And if you are working part time while applying for disability, your chances of winning are much smaller.
We Have to Prove You are Disabled
As you might expect, you cannot simply walk into a Social Security office, announce that you are “disabled,” and start collecting checks. In the disability system, you, as the claimant, have to prove that you meet Social Security’s definition of disability.
Social Security’s disability claim evaluation process has evolved into a complex and often confusing system that involves multiple levels of appeals and review. If you are not currently represented and would like guidance specific to your case, please reach out to us using the contact form on this page.