Eligibility rules for Social Security’s disability program differ from those of private plans or other government agencies. Social Security doesn’t provide temporary or partial disability benefits, like workers’ compensation or veterans’ benefits do. A recipient must be unable to do any kind of full-time work at all.
To receive disability benefits, a person must meet the definition of disability under the Social Security Act (Act). A person is disabled under the Act if he or she can’t work due to a severe medical condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least one year or result in death. The person’s medical condition must prevent him or her from doing work that he or she did in the past, and it must prevent the person from adjusting to other work.
Because the Act defines disability so strictly, Social Security disability beneficiaries are among the most severely impaired in the country. In fact, Social Security disability beneficiaries are more than three times as likely to die in a year as other people the same age. Among those who start receiving disability benefits at the age of 55, 1-in-5 men and 1-in-7 women die within five years of the onset of their disabilities.