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Right now, you know that you can’t work. You consider yourself disabled, but will the Social Security Administration (SSA) consider you disabled too? Before you can know if you qualify for Social Security disability, you need to know what the SSA is talking about when it uses various terms. You need to understand the SSA’s language as it applies to Social Security disability benefits.

Common Social Security Disability Terms Defined

Some terms that you might hear from an SSA agent or representative include:

  • Disability. Disability has a specific meaning when used by the SSA. Disability means the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least one year.
  • Disability Determination Services (DDS). These are state agencies responsible for making the first determination as to whether a Social Security disability applicant is or is not disabled. While they are state agencies, they are fully funded by the federal government.
  • Listing of Impairments. The SSA’s document that describes, for each major body system, impairments considered severe enough to prevent an individual from doing any gainful activity. Most of the listed impairments are permanent, or they are expected to result in death, or the listing includes a specific statement of duration.
  • Medically determinable impairment. An impairment, illness, or injury that is an anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormality that can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.
  • Sequential evaluation process. A series of five steps that the SSA must consider when determining whether someone is disabled.

Of course, these are not the only terms the SSA uses in making disability determinations.

How to Find Out More

Your Social Security disability lawyer should take the time to explain all of the relevant terms and how the disability application and appeals process works. Are you ready to learn more? Order your free copy of our helpful guide, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know, or contact our office for answers to your specific questions.

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Morgan & Weisbrod LLP

by Paul B. Burkhalter
Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.


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