We Help Clients Nationwide Make Sense of the Social Security Disability Application Process and Common Abbreviations 

Federal Social Security disability programs can provide vital financial benefits for people living with severe medical conditions that prevent employment. Unfortunately, from the numerous forms you must complete to the specialized terms you’ll encounter, applying for disability is anything but intuitive. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to face this overwhelming endeavor alone. Disability Services of America guides clients through the Social Security disability application process, providing essential information and step-by-step assistance to help you secure the benefits you deserve. 

Understanding Disability’s Specialized Terminology 

Are you applying for Social Security disability? Whether you’re Googling the process or looking through the application forms, the unfamiliar jargon, acronyms, and abbreviations are everywhere. Not to worry. Disability Services of America cracks the code so you make sense of the alphabet soup. The following are some of the most common terms you’ll encounter when applying for Social Security disability, presented from application to approval.

Social Security Administration (SSA)

The SSA is a federal agency that manages two distinct programs for people who can’t work due to one or more severely disabling conditions.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is a needs-based program that provides health insurance and monthly financial benefits for disabled individuals with low income and limited resources.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI is a federal insurance program for individuals with disabilities who’ve accrued sufficient credits working in jobs that contribute to Social Security through payroll taxes. Benefits can include monthly financial payments and health coverage. Applicants typically require 40 work credits, including 20 earned in the last 10 years ending with the year of disability onset.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

SGA is an earning threshold the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to decide if your work activity qualifies as substantial and gainful employment when determining disability benefits eligibility. Your disabling medical condition must be too severe to permit engaging in SGA. The SSA updates SGA amounts periodically to reflect changes in the national wage index. In 2024, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicants must earn less than $1,550 per month to qualify, while the SGA for statutorily blind SSDI applicants is $2,590 per month.

Medically Determinable Impairment (MDI)

An MDI is a physical or mental condition that can be established with objective medical evidence, such as clinical findings, laboratory tests, or diagnostic imaging. Demonstrating the presence of an MDI is critical to determining SSI and SSDI eligibility.

Acceptable Medical Sources (AMS)

Providing medical evidence of a specific impairment that could be reasonably expected to produce your symptoms is crucial when applying for SSI or SSDI. However, this vitally important documentation must come from acceptable medical sources. AMS includes licensed medical or osteopathic doctors and other licensed or certified providers working within their scope of practice.

Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Assessment 

An RFC assessment is an evaluation the SSA conducts to determine applicants’ ability to perform work-related activities despite their impairments. It considers wide-ranging factors— including the physical and mental capabilities, limitations, and restrictions your condition causes—to understand how it affects your capacity to complete work-related tasks like sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, and concentrating. 

An RFC assessment also considers social functioning and communication skills, evaluating how you understand and follow instructions and cooperate in a team environment. These evaluations can be critical to proving your eligibility when your condition isn’t in the Blue Book, the SSA’s guide of qualifying conditions criteria for approval.

Disability Determination Services (DDS)

DDS is a state-level agency that evaluates Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims. Medical and vocational examiners at DDS review all the evidence in your application to determine whether you meet the SSA’s strict definition of disability. 

Get Step-by-Step Guidance for the SSI or SSDI Application Process 

When you can’t work due to a severe MDI and are counting on vital SSI or SSDI benefits, there’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Turn to Disability Services of America for experienced assistance at every stage of the Social Security disability application process.