Social Security Disability Definitions

Throughout the process of applying for disability benefits, you will be confronted with a number of terms and phrases related specifically to Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Your understanding of these terms can help facilitate your determination of eligibility and the filing of your disability claim. For more information, contact a DC disability lawyer, Maryland disability lawyer, or Virginia disability lawyer.

Social Security Disability Terms to Know

  • Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) – a federally appointed judge ruling on statutory law, including presiding over Social Security Disability hearings
  • Appeals Council – The Social Security Disability Appeals Council rules on the appropriateness of an Administrative Law Judge’s decision in a disability hearing. The Appeals Council does not evaluate the merits of the claimant’s case, but rather the possible errors made by the ALJ in reaching a decision.
  • Back Pay – past due benefits owed for the time period between the onset of disability and the final approval of disability benefits
  • Closed Period – occurs when an ALJ finds that a claimant’s disability has improved so that he or she is not eligible for ongoing benefits, but that the claimant was eligible for disability benefits for a period of at least 13 months prior to improvement
  • Consultative Exam (CE) – a Social Security medical exam conducted for the purpose of gaining an overview of the claimant’s current medical condition
  • Disability Determination Services (DDS) – the state-level agency that decides whether a disability claim, either SSD or SSI, is approved or denied at the initial application or the request for consideration. Review beyond the DDS is conducted at a disability hearing by an Administrative Law Judge or at an appeal before the Disability Appeals Council.
  • Remand – a disability claim that has been ruled on by an Administrative Law Judge, appealed, and sent back to the ALJ for further review following the Appeals Council’s determination that the judge’s ruling may have been in error
  • Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) – A form on which Disability Determination Services (DDS) physicians rate an individual’s ability to perform certain functions as a result of the disability; for example, the form evaluates how long or how much a claimant can sit, stand, walk, lift, grasp, carry, concentrate, etc.
  • Social Security Disability (SSD) – also known as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Title II Social Security Benefits; payments provided to individuals who have paid into the Social Security system through payroll taxes, but who are no longer able to work as a result of a disabling medical condition.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – provides financial assistance through monthly disability payments to disabled citizens with limited resources who are unable to work as a result of their disabilities, regardless of work history
  • Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) – the level of employment at which a Social Security disability applicant is no longer eligible for SSD or SSI benefits. Currently, SGA is considered any employment which earns the worker a gross income of $1000 or more per month.

To find out more about Social Security Disability or for help filing your disability claim, contact a Social Security lawyer committed to getting you the disability benefits you need.