The definition of disability under Social Security is different from other programs. Social Security Disability Insurance pays only for total disability and grants no benefits for partial or short-term disability. Disability is defined by an individual’s inability to work. Social Security bases its definition on three rules:
1. a person cannot do the work he or she has done before;
2. that person cannot adjust to other work because of the medical condition; and
3. the disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
This strict definition assumes that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disability, including workers’ compensation, insurance, savings, and investments.
See http://ssa.gov/disabilityssi/ for excellent, easy-to-understand directions for applying, which may be completed in person or online. Claims processing for disability benefits takes from three to five months on average.