What Does It Mean to Be Legally Disabled?

According to the 2017 American Community Survey (ACS), more than 40 million Americans, or about one in eight people in the United States, suffers from some form of disability. However, only about 10 million people in the United States received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in that same year. Partly that’s due to variations in how disabilities are defined, but more importantly, it has to do with the difference between having a disability and being legally disabled.

A disability refers to any one of many medical or psychological conditions that significantly impairs a person’s ability to interact with the world or perform common tasks. The ACS defines six broad categories of disability: hearing, visual, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care, and independent living.

  • Hearing: Is the person deaf, or do they have serious difficulty hearing?
  • Visual: Is the person blind, or do they have serious difficulty seeing, even with glasses?
  • Cognitive: Does the person have difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions, due to a physical, mental or emotional condition?
  • Ambulatory: Does the person have difficulty walking or climbing stairs?
  • Self-Care: Does the person have difficulty bathing or dressing themselves?
  • Independent Living: Does the person, as a result of a physical, mental or emotional condition, have difficulty doing errands alone, such as shopping or going to the doctor?

The term “disability,” thus covers a wide variety of conditions, and even though they are difficult to live with, many people with disabilities live relatively normal lives, thanks to modern medicine. If properly treated, many people with disabilities can work and take care of themselves, sometimes without the people around them even realizing they have a disability. Of course, “many” is not “all,” and there are plenty of people with disabilities who aren’t so fortunate.

The crucial distinction between merely having a disability, therefore, and being legally disabled, is a matter of impairment. SSDI isn’t meant for anyone with a disability; rather, it’s for those who is so disabled that they cannot reasonably hope to make a living on their own. However, for those ten million or so Americans who need it, SSDI is there for them.

If you or a loved one need assistance applying for Social Security Disability benefits, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced Social Security Disability benefits lawyer. The lawyers at Sullivan & Kehoe, LLP have over 50 years of combined experience between its attorneys and are available to you or your loved one in obtaining Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits. To schedule a consultation with our New York Social Security Disability benefits lawyers, call (631) 823-7155.

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