Social Security Administration’s website http://www.ssa.gov/dibplan/dqualify4.htm defines disability this way The definition of disability under Social Security is different than other programs. Social Security pays only for total disability.
No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability.
"Disability" under Social Security is based on your inability to work. We consider you disabled under Social Security rules if:
• You cannot do work that you did before;
• We decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
• Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
This is a strict definition of disability. Social Security program rules assume that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers' compensation, insurance, savings and investments.
WHAT IS WORK?
SSA’s definition of disability is strict but it doesn’t define “work.” Work is showing up on time and performing tasks well. It is also responding well to supervision and getting along with colleagues.
Work is an ability to do all of the above on a regular basis for an indefinite period of time.
Any interruption to the ability to sustain employment due to functional limitations resulting from an injury, illness or condition could result in a disability determination.
DIAGNOSIS & FUNCTIONAL LIMITATION(S)
A diagnosis is not a disability. A functional limitation(s) results from the diagnosis and its symptoms. Example: “I work worked on a loading dock. I used to easily lift 100 lb. boxes. My arm was crushed (diagnosis) in a motorcycle accident. Now I can’t lift more than ten 10 lbs” ( functional limitation)
” I have HIV/AIDS.” That’s a diagnosis.
“Many days I can’t get out of bed. A friend will come in and do some light housekeeping and make sure I have food that I can eat. I can’t do those things for myself.” These are Functional Limitations.