Social Security defines “disability” as the “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.”
This means that you are disabled if your medical conditions prevent you from doing the type of work you did in the 15 years before your disability began. You also may be required to show that your condition prevents you from adjusting to other work in the economy. Generally, if your medical conditions prevent you from earning roughly $1,000 per month for 12 consecutive months, then you are disabled.
If you earn more than $1,070 per month in the year 2014, you are not disabled, no matter how bad your medical conditions may be. For example, Stevie Wonder was blind, but he was not disabled for Social Security purposes because he could earn more than $1,070 per month by playing music.
If your medical problems prevent working for less than 12 months, you are not disabled for Social Security’s purposes (although you may be entitled to disability payments from other sources, such as a private Long Term Disability insurance plan). For example, if back surgery prevents you from working for only six months, you are not disabled.