Note: The main glossary
appears below the list of
abbreviations and acronyms.
Abbreviations and Acronyms
ALJ: Administrative Law Judge
ADLs: Activities of Daily Living
AOD: Alleged Onset Date
CE: Consultative Examination
DAA: Drug Addiction and Alcoholism
DDS: Disability Determination Services
DEQY: Detailed Earnings Query
DIB: Disability Insurance Benefits
DLI: Date Last Insured
DOT: Dictionary of Occupational Titles
MRFC: Mental Residual Functional Capacity
MSS: Medical Source Statement
ODAR: Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
PCE: Physical Capacities Evaluation
POD: Period of Disability
POMS: Program Operations Manual System
PRFC: Physical Residual Functional Capacity
PRW: Past Relevant Work
QC: Quarter of Coverage
RFC: Residual Functional Capacity
SGA: Substantial Gainful Activity
SSA: Social Security Administration
SSD: Social Security Disability
SSI: Supplemental Security Income
SSR: Social Security Ruling
TWP: Trial Work Period
UWA: Unsuccessful Work Attempt
VE: Vocational Expert
WC: Workers’ Compensation
(Many of the above terms are explained in greater detail in the Glossary, below.)
GLOSSARY OF SOCIAL SECURITY TERMS
Note: A lot of the terms, definitions, ways of establishing dates, etc., are so complicated, it seems only Social Security employees have the key to understanding them completely. In many cases, the language in the definitions can’t be simplified without changing the meaning. In fact, it can get so complicated, even Social Security needs to use their computers to come up with the correct numbers!
Acceptable Medical Sources: Licensed physicians (medical or osteopathic doctors), and licensed or certified psychologists. For purposes of establishing visual disorders only: licensed optometrists. For purposes of establishing disorders of the foot and ankle only: licensed podiatrists. For purposes of establishing speech or language impairments only: qualified speech-language pathologists.
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs): Cleaning, shopping, cooking, taking public transportation, paying bills, maintaining a residence, caring appropriately for your grooming and hygiene, using telephones and directories, and using a post office. In short, just about anything except what you would call “work.”
Advanced Age: Age 55 or older.
Age Category: An age category based on your chronological age. Your chronological age is your actual age measured in days, months, and years from your birth. Social Security considers that you reach a particular age on the day before your birthday. Social Security divides ages into the following categories:
Younger Individual (under 50)
Subcategory: Younger Individual Age 45 through 49
Closely Approaching Advanced Age (50 through 54)
Advanced Age (55 or older)
Subcategory: Closely Approaching Retirement Age (60 or older).
Alleged Onset Date (AOD): The date you say you became disabled.
Arduous Work: Work that requires a lot of physical strength or endurance, including:
Physical demands that are classified as heavy.
Work that requires a great deal of stamina such as repetitive bending or lifting at a very fast pace.
Balancing: Maintaining body equilibrium to prevent falling when walking, standing, crouching, or running.
Basic Work Activities: The abilities and aptitudes necessary to do most jobs. Examples of these include: (1) Walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying, or handling; (2) Seeing, hearing, and speaking; (3) Understanding, carrying out, and remembering simple instructions; (4) Using judgment; (5) Responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers and usual work situations; and (6) Dealing with changes in your work routine.
Borderline Age Issue: When you’re within a few days to a few months from the next higher age category and you would be considered disabled if Social Security applied the rule that applies to the higher age category.
Carrying: Transporting an object; usually holding it in your hands, arms, or on your shoulder.
Climbing: Climbing up or down ladders, stairs, scaffolding, ramps, poles, or ropes, using your feet and legs or hands and arms.
Closed Period of Disability: A period when you were disabled for at least 12 straight months, but by the time Social Security makes a determination or decision regarding disability, you have improved and are no longer disabled.
Closely Approaching Advanced Age: Age 50 through and including age 54.
Composite Job: A job that is described by using significant elements of two or more occupations. The Dictionary of Occupational Titles does not classify composite jobs.
Consultative Examination: A physical or mental examination or test that Social Security requests and pays for to investigate the nature and severity of your condition.
Continuing Disability Review (CDR): A case review, after you have been found disabled, to determine whether your disability continues or has ended. The law requires Social Security to do a medical CDR approximately every three years, unless they decide you have a condition that they expect will improve sooner than that. Even if you have a condition that is not expected to improve, they will still review your case, just not as often as every three years.
Controlling Weight: No, this has nothing to do with dieting! This is the term Social Security uses to describe the importance they give to a medical opinion from a treating source. If an opinion meets the controlling weight criteria, Social Security must accept that opinion and use it to decide if you’re disabled. An opinion must be given controlling weight when all four of the following are satisfied:
(1) The opinion must come from a treating source, as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1502 and 416.902. Although opinions from other acceptable medical sources may be entitled to great weight, and may even be entitled to more weight than a treating source’s opinion in some circumstances, opinions from sources other than treating sources can never be entitled to controlling weight.
(2) The opinion must be a medical opinion—that is, an opinion about the nature and severity of an individual’s impairment(s).
(3) The treating source’s medical opinion must be well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.
(4) Even if well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques, the treating source’s medical opinion must also be not inconsistentwith the other substantial evidence in your case record.
If any of these four factors are not satisfied, a treating source’s opinion cannot be entitled to controlling weight.
Constantly: Occurring two-thirds or more of the time—that’s 5 hours and 20 minutes or more in an 8-hour workday.
Credibility: The degree to which your statements can be believed and accepted as true. Credibility is not an “all or nothing” thing. It works like a sliding scale. And on that sliding scale, Social Security may find that all, only some, or none of what you say is credible. They may find your statements about how limited you are due to pain or other symptoms to be credible only to a certain degree. For example, Social Security may find you’re credible when you say that your abilities to lift and carry are affected by your pain and fatigue, but they may also find that what you say about how limited you are in your ability to lift and carry is not credible. As another example, Social Security may find that you’re credible when you say your symptoms limit your ability to concentrate—and they may even find that you’re more limited than you say.
Crouching: Bending both your legs and your spine in order to bend your body downward and forward.
Currently Insured: You are currently insured if you have at least six Quarters of Coverage (QCs) during any one of the following periods:
(a) The 13-calendar-quarter period ending with the quarter you died;
(b) The 13-calendar-quarter period ending with the quarter in which you became entitled to retirement insurance benefits; or
(c) The 13-calendar-quarter period ending with the quarter in which you most recently became entitled to disability insurance benefits.
(If you are an alien and you were assigned an original Social Security Number on or after January 1, 2004, then you must meet additional requirements.)
Date Last Insured (DLI): The date on which your disability insured status expires. Social Security’s technical definition is: DLI is the last day in the last quarter when disability insured status is met. As of the DLI the individual must be fully insured or deemed fully insured, and must meet the appropriate disability insured test. To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you have to show that your disability began on or before your date last insured.
Detailed Earnings Query: A Social Security document showing your work history, the names and addresses of your employers, the amounts of your yearly earnings, and your Quarters of Coverage.
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT): A listing of 12,741 different occupations in the U.S. economy. The DOT and its companion volume, the Selected Characteristics of Occupations Defined in the DOT (SCO), attempt to describe the duties and demands of nearly every U.S. occupation. It hasn’t been updated since 1991, and parts of it are obsolete. Even so, in making disability determinations, Social Security relies primarily on the DOT and the SCO for information about the requirements of various jobs.
Disability Insured Status: Disability insured status is based on Quarters of Coverage (QCs). You are insured for purposes of the Social Security Disability (SSD) program if you are fully insured and:
(1) you have earned at least 20 QCs out of the most recent 40 calendar quarters (this is called “the 20/40 test”), or
(2) you have not reached age 31 and have half the QCs which are possible to earn beginning with the quarter after the quarter in which you reached age 21 (minimum of 6 quarters), or
(3) you are statutorily blind.
There is a special rule if you previously were found disabled prior to age 31 and are applying for Social Security Disability again after reaching age 31. The rule applies only if you did not meet test (1), you did meet test (2), you are fully insured, and you have QCs in at least half of the calendar quarters beginning after the quarter you reached age 21 and through the quarter in which the later period of disability begins (reduced by one if that is an odd number of quarters, and a minimum of 6 QCs is required). Too complex to figure out? Let Social Security’s computer calculate this for you. Also, in computing the required QCs under tests (1) and (2) and the special rule described above, calendar quarters in which you were found by Social Security to have been disabled may be disregarded if doing so is to your advantage (except that the first and last quarters of a period of disability are not disregarded if they were QCs).
Educational Level: The grade you completed in formal school, unless evidence shows you have a higher or lower level of education. Social Security classifies education into five categories:
Inability to Communicate in English: You can’t speak or understand English.
Illiteracy: You can’t read or write English.
Marginal Education: You completed formal schooling at a 6th grade level or less.
Limited Education: You completed formal schooling at a 7th grade level through 11th grade level.
High School Education and Above: You have abilities in reasoning, arithmetic, and language skills acquired through formal schooling at a 12th grade level or above.
Eligible: Meeting all the requirements for entitlement to benefits except filing and approval of an application.
Entitled: Meeting all the requirements for entitlement to benefits including filing and approval of an application.
Environmental Restriction: A medical need to avoid one or more environmental conditions in a workplace. For example, you can’t work in certain places because of extremes in temperature, humidity, noise, vibration, fumes, odors, toxic conditions, dust, poor ventilation, or exposure to hazards.
Examining Source: A physician, psychologist, or other acceptable medical source who examined you but did not establish an ongoing treatment relationship with you.
Exertional Level: There are five exertional levels of work: sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy. Each is defined in this Glossary.
Exertional Limitation: A limitation that affects your ability to do any of the seven primary strength activities (sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling).
Felony Exclusion Rule: Social Security will not consider any physical or mental impairment, or worsening of your preexisting impairment, when it arises in connection with your commission of a felony after October 19, 1980. For the rule to apply to you, you must be convicted of the felony; your impairment must be closely related to, or associated with, the commission of the felony; and your impairment (or aggravation of a pre-existing impairment) must occur at a time and location that is near to the felony.
Example 1: You rob a bank and wreck your getaway car while fleeing the scene. In the car wreck, you injure your back. Your back impairment would be considered associated with the commission of the felony. If you are convicted of this felony, Social Security will not consider your back impairment when deciding if you're disabled.
Example 2: You rob a bank and stash the money in the trunk of your car. A week later, after grocery shopping, you slip and fall while carrying the groceries to your car, and you injure your back. A police officer helps you to your car, and while putting your groceries in the trunk, the officer finds the stolen money. You are charged with and convicted of the felony bank robbery. Your back injury would not be considered sufficiently close in time and place to the bank robbery to be associated with the felony. Social Security will consider your back impairment when deciding if you're disabled.
Note: This felony-exclusion rule does not apply to claims for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits.
Fingering: Picking, pinching, or otherwise working primarily with the fingers (rather than with the whole hand or arm as in “Handling”).
Fraud: Making, or causing someone else to make, with intent to defraud, a false statement or misrepresentation of a material fact. Also, concealing or failing to disclose a material fact for use in determining rights to Social Security or SSI benefits. Similar fault differs from fraud in that fraud (but not similar fault) includes an element of intentto defraud.
Frequently: Occurring from one-third to two-thirds of the time—from 2 hours and 40 minutes, up to 5 hours and 20 minutes per 8-hour workday.
Fully Insured: To be fully insured, you need at least one Quarter of Coverage (QC) for each calendar year after the year you turned 21 and the earliest of the following: 1) the year before you turn age 62; 2) the year before you die; or 3); the year before you become disabled.
The minimum number of QCs needed to be fully insured is 6. The maximum number needed is 40. Any year (all or part of a year) that was included in a period of disability is not included in determining the number of QCs you need.
Grids: “The Grids” is another term for the Medical Vocational Guidelines/Rules.
Handling: Seizing, holding, grasping, turning, or otherwise working with the hand or hands. Fingers are involved only to the extent they are part of your hand.
Heavy Exertion: Lifting up to 100 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects that weigh up to 50 pounds.
High School Education or Above: Formal schooling completed at a level of 12th grade and above. Generally, a GED certificate is considered in this category.
High school graduate or more—provides for direct entry into skilled work: A classification used in the Medical-Vocational Guidelines. This means that little time has passed between the time you completed your formal education and the date your disability claim is being decided. It also means that the content of your education (usually trade school or college) would allow you, with a minimal degree of job orientation, to do a particular skilled job.
Illiteracy: You can’t read or write in English. Social Security considers you illiterate if you can’t read or write a simple message, such as instructions or an inventory list, even though you can sign your name.
Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE): When Social Security decides if your work is SGA, they deduct from your gross earnings the cost of certain impairment-related items and services that you need to work. These are IRWE. It doesn’t matter if you also use these items and services for non-work activities. Social Security will deduct IRWE for SGA purposes when:
The item(s) or service(s) enables you to work;
You need the item(s) or service(s) because of a physical or mental impairment;
You pay for the item(s) or service(s) and are not reimbursed by another source such as Medicare, Medicaid, or a private insurance carrier; and
The cost is “reasonable,” that is, it represents the standard charge for the item or service in your community.
Laboratory Findings: Anatomical, physiological, or psychological phenomena which can be shown by the use of medically acceptable laboratory diagnostic techniques. Some of these diagnostic techniques include chemical tests, electro-physiological studies (electrocardiogram, electroencephalogram, etc.), X-rays, and psychological tests.
Lead Worker: An employee who plans and coordinates work, and guides and trains others while doing the same kind of work.
Lifetime Commitment (to a field of work): Thirty years or more in one field of work. The work doesn’t have to be for one employer, but it should be of a similar nature.
Light Exertion: Lifting no more than 20 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 10 pounds. Even though the weight lifted in a job may be very little, a job is considered light if it requires a good deal of walking or standing—the primary difference between sedentary and most light jobs. A job is also classified as light when it involves sitting most of the time but with some pushing and pulling of arm-hand or leg-foot controls, which require greater exertion than in sedentary work. The full range of light work requires standing or walking, off and on, for a total of approximately 6 hours of an 8-hour workday. Sitting may occur during the remaining time. Many unskilled light jobs are performed primarily in one location, with the ability to stand being more critical than the ability to walk. They require use of arms and hands to grasp and to hold and turn objects, and they generally do not require use of the fingers for fine activities to the extent required in much sedentary work. Work is classified as light if it involves a production rate pace while constantly pushing or pulling materials even though the weight of the materials is negligible. The ability to do light work generally includes the ability to do sedentary work, unless there are additional limiting factors such as loss of fine dexterity or inability to sit for long periods of time.
Limited Education: Formal schooling completed at a level of 7th through 11th grade. Limited education generally is not enough to allow you to do most of the more complex job duties needed in semi-skilled or skilled jobs.
Marginal Education: Formal schooling completed at a level of 6th grade or less.
Medically Acceptable: This term means that the clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques that the medical source uses comply with the medical standards that are generally accepted within the medical community as the appropriate techniques to establish the existence and severity of an impairment.
Medically Determinable Impairment: An impairment resulting from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities that can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. A physical or mental impairment must be established by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings. Your statements of symptoms, alone, are not enough.
Medical Opinion: A statement from a physician or psychologist or other acceptable medical source that reflects judgments about the nature and severity of your impairments. A medical opinion may describe your symptoms, diagnosis and prognosis, and what you can still do despite your impairments and restrictions.
Medical Source Statement: A medical opinion from an acceptable medical source (including treating sources and consultative examiners) about what you can still do despite a severe impairment. In particular, an opinion about your physical or mental abilities to perform work-related activities on a sustained basis.
Medical Vocational Guidelines/Rules (The Grids): The medical- vocational guidelines (the Grids) are found at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2 0f the disability regulations. Social Security uses the medical-vocational guidelines at Step 5 of the sequential evaluation process to decide if you can perform work other than your past relevant work. Your residual functional capacity (RFC), age, education, and work experience determine which rules apply.
When each of these factors—RFC, age, education, and previous work—matches a rule, that rule directs a decision of disabled or not disabled. Where one or more of the factors in a rule are not met, the rules provide a framework for decisionmaking.
Medium Exertion: Lifting no more than 50 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 25 pounds. A full range of medium work requires standing or walking, off and on, for a total of approximately 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. Sitting may occur during the remaining time. Use of the arms and hands is necessary to grasp, hold, and turn objects. The considerable lifting required for the full range of medium work usually requires frequent bending-stooping. Flexibility of the knees as well as the torso is important for this activity. In most medium jobs, being on your feet for most of the workday is critical. Being able to do frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 25 pounds is often more critical than being able to lift up to 50 pounds at a time.
Never: Not even once during an 8-hour day.
Noncovered Earnings: Earnings from employment or self-employment income that are not subject to Social Security taxes. Examples of noncovered earnings are earnings of certain government jobs and certain agricultural and domestic jobs. FICA taxes are not deducted from noncovered earnings. If you are eligible for a pension due to work in which there were non-covered earnings, your Social Security benefits may be reduced to prevent “double dipping,” in one of two ways: the “Windfall Elimination Provision” or the “Government Pension Offset.”
Nonexertional Limitation: A limitation that affects your ability to do work activities other than the seven “strength” activities (sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling). Nonexertional limitations include those that affect mental abilities and the mind (for example, understanding and remembering instructions, responding appropriately to supervision), vision, hearing, speech, and use of the body to climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, reach, and handle, as well as use of the fingers for fine activities and feeling. Environmental limitations, like working in extreme temperatures or extremely noisy areas, are also considered nonexertional. A medical condition may affect both exertional and nonexertional capacities.
Occasionally: Occurring at least once, and up to 2 hours and 40 minutes of an 8-hour workday.
Other Work: Work other than your past relevant work.
Past Relevant Work (PRW): Work that: was done within the relevant work period; and was substantial gainful activity (SGA); and lasted long enough for you to learn the techniques, acquire the necessary information, and develop the facilities needed for average performance in the job situation.
Previous Work Experience: Your work experience may be: 1) none; 2) not vocationally relevant; 3) unskilled; 4) semi-skilled; or 5) skilled. If your work was semi-skilled or skilled, you may have transferable skills. For your work to qualify as “skilled or semi-skilled—skills transferable,” you must have performed work that is above the unskilled level of complexity, you must have gained identifiable skills from that work, and you must be able to use those skills in other specific skilled or semi-skilled occupations that you have the physical and mental capacity to perform.
Primary Insurance Amount (PIA): The amount of your monthly Social Security Disability benefit or retirement benefit upon attaining full retirement age.
Program Operations Manual System (POMS): A reference manual used by Social Security to determine how to deal with nearly every imaginable thing that can happen in a Social Security case.
Quarter: A period of 3 calendar months ending March 31, June 30, September 30, or December 31.
Quarter of Coverage (QC): The basic unit Social Security uses to determine if you are insured under the Social Security retirement and disability programs. It is an insurance credit based on earnings that are subject to Social Security taxes (covered earnings). During a year, a maximum of 4 QCs may be earned. You do not earn QCs for Noncovered Employment or for working “under the table.” In 2013, one QC was earned for every $1,160 in covered earnings. (The dollar amount is adjusted each year and increases according to a governmental wage index.) If you need to know the amount of earnings necessary to gain a quarter of coverage in years prior to 2013, a chart is available on the Internet: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/COLA/QC.html
Regular and Continuing Basis: 8 hours a day, for 5 days a week, or an equivalent work schedule.
Remand: To return a case to a prior level of appeal for further review.
Residual Functional Capacity (RFC): What you can do in a work setting despite the functional limitations and environmental restrictions caused by all of your medically determinable impairments. Ordinarily, RFC is your maximum remaining ability to do sustained work activities in an ordinary work setting on a regular and continuing basis. A regular and continuing basis means 8 hours a day, for 5 days a week, or an equivalent work schedule.
Sedentary Exertion: Lifting no more than 10 pounds at a time and occasionally lifting or carrying articles like docket files, ledgers, and small tools. Sitting generally totals about 6 hours per day, and walking and standing total no more than about 2 hours. Most unskilled sedentary jobs require good use of the hands and fingers for repetitive hand-finger actions.
Semi-Skilled Work: Work that needs some skills but doesn’t require doing more complex work duties. Semi-skilled jobs may require alertness and close attention to watching machine processes; or inspecting, testing or otherwise looking for irregularities; or tending or guarding equipment, property, material, or people against loss, damage or injury; or other types of activities that are also less complex than skilled work, but more complex than unskilled work. A job may be classified as semi-skilled where coordination and dexterity are necessary, as when hands or feet must be moved quickly to do repetitive tasks. Generally, it takes between 30 days and 6 months to learn to do a semi-skilled job. Semi-skilled work has a specific vocational preparation (SVP) level of 3 or 4.
Severe Impairment: An impairment that significantly limits your physical or mental ability to perform one or more basic work activities needed to do most jobs.
Signs (medical): Anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities that can be observed, apart from your statements. (Your statements, or your own descriptions, are called symptoms.) Signs must be shown by medically acceptable clinical diagnostic techniques. Psychiatric signs are medically demonstrable phenomena that indicate specific abnormalities of behavior, affect, thought, memory, orientation and contact with reality. They must also be shown by observable facts that can be medically described and evaluated.
Similar Fault: Knowingly providing an incorrect or incomplete statement that is material to the determination of disability, or knowingly concealing information that is material to the determination of disability. (A statement, information, or omission is material if it could influence Social Security in determining entitlement to or eligibility for monthly benefits under the Social Security Act.) Similar fault differs from fraud in that fraud (but not similar fault) includes an element of intent to defraud.
Skill: Experience and demonstrated proficiency with work activities in specific tasks or jobs. A skill can be gained only by doing past relevant skilled or semi-skilled work. A skill can’t be gained from unskilled work. It can’t be gained through volunteer work or hobbies. It can’t be gained through education. A skill is knowledge of a work activity that requires the exercise of significant judgment that goes beyond carrying out simple job duties and is acquired through performance of an occupation which requires more than 30 days to learn. It is practical and familiar knowledge of the principles and processes of an art, science, or trade, combined with the ability to apply them in practice in a proper and approved manner. This includes activities like making precise measurements, reading blueprints, and setting up and operating complex machinery. A skill gives a person a special advantage over unskilled workers in the labor market.
Skilled Work: Work that requires qualifications in which you use judgment to determine the machine and manual operations to be performed in order to obtain the proper form, quality, or quantity of material to be produced. Skilled work may require laying out work, estimating quality, determining the suitability and needed quantities of materials, making precise measurements, reading blueprints or other specifications, or making necessary computations or mechanical adjustments to control or regulate the work. Skilled jobs may require dealing with people, facts, or figures or abstract ideas at a high level of complexity. It takes over 6 months to learn a skilled job. Skilled work requires high levels of judgment and adaptability, and it involves setting realistic goals or making plans independently. It requires understanding, remembering, and carrying out complex instructions, and it often encompasses abstract ideas and problem solving. Skilled work has a specific vocational preparation (SVP) level of 5 through 9.
Social Security Disability (SSD): The insurance-based disability program. (SSI is the needs-based disability program.) To qualify for Social Security Disability, you (or a wage earner on whose record you are eligible for benefits) must have worked enough in covered employment to have disability insured status.
Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) Level: The amount of time required by a typical worker to learn the techniques, acquire the information, and develop the facility needed for average performance of a job. SVP is divided into the following 9 levels:
Level 1: Short demonstration only.
Level 2: Anything beyond short demonstration up to and including 1 month.
Level 3: Over 1 month up to and including 3 months.
Level 4: Over 3 months up to and including 6 months.
Level 5: Over 6 months up to and including 1 year.
Level 6: Over 1 year up to and including 2 years.
Level 7: Over 2 years up to and including 4 years.
Level 8: Over 4 years up to and including 10 years.
Level 9: Over 10 years.
Stooping: A type of bending in which you bend your body downward and forward by bending your spine at the waist.
Substantial Evidence: More than a mere scintilla of evidence. Such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA): The performance of significant physical or mental activities in work for pay or profit, or in work of a type generally performed for pay or profit. Work may be substantial even if it is performed on a seasonal or part-time basis, or even if you do less, get paid less, or have less responsibility than in previous work. Work activity may be SGA if it is the kind of work usually done for pay or profit, whether or not you make a profit. SGA involves the performance of significant physical or mental duties, or both, that are productive in nature and may be either full-time or part-time work. Generally, activities like taking care of yourself, household tasks, hobbies, therapy, school attendance, club activities, or social programs are not considered to be substantial gainful activity.
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) for Employees: Generally, employees are considered to be performing SGA only if they are earning more than a certain amount per month. In recent years, the monthly SGA amounts for non-blind individuals were:
1990 through June-1999: $500
July-1999 through 2000: $700
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) for Self-Employed Individuals: There are different rules for determining whether work is SGA for self-employed persons. Social Security considers that you have engaged in SGA as a self-employed person if you meet any of the following three tests:
Test One: Significant Services and Substantial Income: You render services that are significant to the operation of the business, and you receive a substantial income from the business; or
Test Two: Comparability of Work Activity: Your work activity, in terms of factors such as hours, skills, energy output, efficiency, duties, and responsibilities, is comparable to that of unimpaired individuals in your community who are in the same or similar businesses as their means of livelihood; or
Test Three: Worth of Work Activity: Your work activity, although not comparable to that of unimpaired individuals, is clearly worth more than the SGA amount for employees (see above SGA chart for those amounts on a year-by-year basis) when considered in terms of its value to the business, or when compared to the salary an owner would pay to an employee to do the work you are doing.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): The needs-based disability program. (SSD is the insurance-based disability program.) To qualify for SSI, you don’t need to have insured status under the Social Security Act, but you must satisfy very strict income and resources conditions—in other words, you must be really poor.
Symptoms: Your own descriptions of your physical or mental impairments. Examples are pain, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and nervousness. Compare with Signs.
Transferable Skills: Skills obtained from past relevant skilled or semi-skilled work that can be used to meet the requirements of skilled or semi-skilled work activities of other jobs or kinds of work.
Treating Source: Your own physician, psychologist, or other acceptable medical source who provides you, or has provided you, with medical treatment or evaluation and who has, or has had, an ongoing treatment relationship with you. Generally, Social Security will consider that you have, or had, an ongoing treatment relationship when you have seen the treating source with a frequency consistent with accepted medical practice for the type of treatment and evaluation required for your medical conditions. Social Security will not consider an acceptable medical source to be your treating physician if your relationship is based not on your need for treatment, but is based solely on your need to obtain a report in support of your disability claim. In such a case, Social Security will consider the acceptable medical source to be a consulting—or examining—source.
Trial Work Period (TWP): A period when you may test your ability to work and hold a job without the threat of losing benefits. During this period, you may performservices for pay in as many as 9 months and still be considered disabled. These do not have to be 9 months in a row. Social Security defines services as any activity in employment or self-employment that is performed (or is normally performed) for pay or profit. Social Security can’t stop your disability during the TWP based on your work activity. However, after the trial work period has ended they will consider the work you did during the trial work period in determining whether your disability ended at any time after the trial work period. Note: A trial work period is not available for SSI claimants.
Unable to Communicate in English: If you can’t speak, understand, read, or write a simple message in English, such as instructions or inventory lists, you are unable to communicate in English.
Unsuccessful Work Attempt (UWA): Work that you are forced by your impairment to stop or to reduce below the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level after working for 6 months or less. There are two kinds of UWAs:
Work attempts lasting 3 months or less; and
Work attempts lasting between 3 and 6 months.
Before you can have a UWA the first time you must have a significant interruption, or break, in your work. There are two ways this could happen:
(1) Because of your impairment or the removal of special conditions related to your impairment which took into account your impairment and permitted you to work, your work was stopped or reduced (limited) to the non-SGA level.
(2) Before the onset of your impairment, you stopped (or limited) your work for other reasons, such as retirement. Or perhaps you never worked at all.
After your first UWA, before you can have another one, you have to have another significant interruption, or break, in your work. You must have stopped working or reduced your work and earnings below the SGA earnings level because of your impairment or because of the removal of special conditions that were necessary to allow you to continue working. Each continuous period of work, separated by significant breaks as described, may be a UWA if the duration criteria and conditions of work are met.
Social Security will consider your work to be discontinued for a significant period if you (1) were out of work for at least 30 consecutive days or (2) because of your impairment, you were forced to change to another type of work or another employer. (On rare occasions a break lasting a few days less than 30 may satisfy this requirement if your subsequent work episode was brief and clearly not successful because of your impairment.)
UWA: Work Attempts Lasting 3 Months or less: Work attempts lasting 3 months or less are the easiest to prove. Your work must have ended or have been reduced to the non-SGA level within 3 months due to your impairment or to the removal of special conditions related to your impairment which took into account your impairment and permitted you to work.
UWA: Work Attempts Lasting Between 3 and 6 Months: Work attempts lasting between 3 and 6 months are a little harder to prove. If your work lasted more than 3 months, it must have ended or have been reduced to the non-SGA level within 6 months due to your impairment or to the removal of special conditions which took into account your impairment and permitted you to work and you must have had at least one of the following additional factors:
(1) You must have had frequent absences from work due to your impairment; or
(2) Your work must have been unsatisfactory due to your impairment; or
(3) Your work must have been done during a period of temporary remission of your impairment; or
(4) You worked under special conditions that were essential to your performance of the job and those special conditions were removed.
UWA: Work Attempts Lasting More Than 6 Months: Your SGA-level work lasting more than 6 months cannot be a UWA no matter why it ended or was reduced to the non-SGA level.
Unskilled Work: Work that needs little or no judgment to do simple duties that can be learned on the job in a short period of time. Jobs are unskilled if the primary work duties are handling, feeding, and offbearing (that is, placing or removing materials from machines which are automatic or operated by others), or machine tending, and a person can usually learn to do the job in 30 days, and little specific vocational preparation and judgment are needed. You do not gain work skills by doing unskilled work. Unskilled work has a specific vocational preparation (SVP) level of 1 or 2.
Very Heavy Exertion: Work involving lifting more than 100 pounds at a time, with frequent lifting or carrying of 50 pounds or more.
Vocational Factors: Your age, education, and work experience.