BESB: Government Benefits

Government Benefits

The definition of disability in the Social Security law is a strict one.  To be eligible for benefits, a person must be unable to do any kind of substantial gainful work because of a physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments) which is expected either to last at least 12 months, or to end in death. Your disability also prevents you from adjusting to other types of work.


If, because of a physical or medical condition, a person cannot do the work that he performed in the past, then age, education, and past work experience must be considered in determining whether the person can do other work. If the evidence shows that the person can do other work, even if it involves different skills or pays less than his previous work, he cannot be considered disabled for Social Security purposes.

You should be familiar with the process the Social Security Administration uses to determine if you are disabled.  It's a step-by-step process involving five questions. They are: {window washer}

  1. Are you working? If you are and your earnings average more than $800 a month, you generally cannot be considered disabled.

  2. Is your condition severe?  Your impairments must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered.

  3. Is your condition found in the list of disabling impairments?  A list of impairments is maintained for each of the major body systems that are so severe they automatically mean you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, the SSA will have to decide if it is of equal severity to an impairment on the list. If it is, your claim is approved. If it is not, the SSA will then go to the next step.

  4. Can you do the work you did previously?  If your condition is severe, but not at the same or equal severity as an impairment on the list, then the SSA must determine  if it prevents you from doing the work you did in the last 15 years. If it does not, your claim will be denied.  If it does, your claim will be considered further.

  5. Can you do any other type of work?  If you cannot do the work you did in the last 15 years, the SSA then looks to see if you can do any other type of work. The Social Security Administration considers your age, education, past work experience, and transferable skills, and then reviews the job demands of occupations as determined by the Department of Labor.  If you cannot do any other kind of work, your claim will be approved.  If you can, your claim will be denied.


You may obtain a copy of Disability Evaluation Under Social Security (“The Blue Book) (1/03; SSA Publication No. 64-039) which contains the medical criteria that SSA uses to determine disability.  It is intended primarily for physicians and other health professionals.


Rules For Blind People {person with cane}

You are considered blind under Social Security rules if your vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in your better eye or if your visual field is 20 degrees or less, even with a corrective lens.


There are a number of special rules for people who are blind.  The rules recognize the severe impact of blindness on a person’s ability to work. For example, the monthly earnings limit for people who are blind is generally higher than the $800 limit that applies to non-blind disabled workers.  This amount changes each year. For current amounts and other information on special rules for people who are blind, ask for the booklet If You Are Blind Or Have Low Vision ... How We Can Help ( Publication No. 05-10052).


Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) is a program financed with Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers, and self-employed persons.  Disability benefits are payable to disabled workers, disabled widow(er)s, or adults disabled since childhood, who are otherwise eligible.  Auxiliary benefits may be payable to a worker's dependents as well. The monthly disability benefit payment is based on the Social Security earnings record of the insured worker on whose Social Security number the disability claim is filed.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program financed through general tax revenues. SSI disability benefits are payable to adults or children who are disabled, meet the income, resource, and living arrangement requirements, and are otherwise eligible. The monthly payment is standardized in all States, but not everyone gets the same amount because it may be supplemented by the State or decreased by other income and resources.


If you believe that you meet the qualifications for Social Security disability benefits, see instructions for applying for disability benefits at:


You can apply online for Disability benefits at:




The Web site provides government benefit information to citizens to help them determine their potential eligibility. is part of President Bush's “eGovernment” initiative to make it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with the government.  The site consolidates information about hundreds of federal assistance programs and federally funded programs managed by state and local governments currently spread across nearly 31 million federal government Web pages. For more information, visit

Content Last Modified on 8/18/2009 1:29:22 PM