For the purposes of Social Security disability benefits (SSDI or SSI), the term “disability” is defined in the Social Security Act as as an inability “to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”
“Substantial gainful activity” refers to “work,” but it is defined more precisely:
An individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work. For purposes of the preceding sentence (with respect to any individual), “work which exists in the national economy” means work which exists in significant numbers either in the region where such individual lives or in several regions of the country.
The Act defines “physical or mental impairment” as “an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. The definitions specifically provide that an individual is not disabled if alcoholism or drug addiction would “be a contributing factor material to the Commissioner’s determination that the individual is disabled.”
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