Social Security Q&A

How Social Security determines if someone is disabled or not.
Published: December 4, 2011
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Q: How does Social Security decide if I am disabled?

A: If you are an adult, you must be unable to work for a year or more because of a medical condition or combination of medical impairments. Overall, we use a five-step evaluation process to decide whether you are disabled. The process considers any current work activity you are doing. It also considers your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. To be found disabled:

• You must be unable to do work you did before you became disabled and we must decide you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition; and

• Your disability must last, or be expected to last, for at least one year or to result in death.

Social Security pays only for total disability. We do not pay benefits for partial or short-term disability. For more information, read our publication Disability Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html.

Will you lose your benefits?

Q: If I go back to work, will I automatically lose my Social Security disability benefits?

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