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Social Security Disability Determinations

Page posted: 10/01/03

Page reviewed: 6/02/10

Page updated: 10/01/03

Legal Authority

Title II of the Social Security Act, Title XVI of the Social Security Act, Minn. Stat.§256B.055


Social Security Administration (SSA): Federal agency that administers Social Security, a program consisting of disability, retirement and survivors’ benefits.

Disability Programs

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI provides cash payments to persons and certain family members who have worked a certain length of time and paid Social Security taxes. A person may also qualify for benefits on a parental earnings record if the person had a disability that started before age 22.

Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI pays monthly cash benefits based on financial need to persons who are:

  • • Blind or disabled (adults and children), who have limited income and resources
  • • 65 years or older without disabilities who meet the financial limits
  • State Medical Review Team (SMRT)

    SMRT is a division of the Department of Human Services who makes blind and disability determinations using criteria from the Social Security Administration.


    SSDI and SSI provide cash benefits to persons who meet the SSA definition of disability. The basis of disability is the existence of a severe medical impairment(s) that prevents a person from participating in substantial gainful work.

    SSA considers a person to have a disability if:

  • • The person is not able to do work that he/she did before;
  • • The person is not able to adjust to other work due to a medical condition(s); and
  • • The disability must last or is expected to last at least one year or result in death
  • No payments are made for partial or short-term disability.

    Disability Determination

    There are two ways in which people may be certified:

    1. Certification by the Social Security Administration
    As part of the eligibility process, SSA determines of blindness and disability as part of the eligibility determination for SSDI and SSI benefits. To decide if a person has a disability, SSA asks five questions:

  • • Is the individual working?
  • • Is the condition of the individual "severe"?
  • • Is the condition on the list of disabling conditions?
  • • Can the individual do the work he/she did previously?
  • • Can the individual do any other type of work?
  • See Apply Online to apply for disability benefits.

    2. Certification by the State Medical Review Team (SMRT)
    SMRT uses SSA criteria to make a disability determination. Refer individuals to SMRT when they have:

  • • Applied for SSDI or SSI benefits and are awaiting a decision
  • • Had SSDI or SSI benefits denied or terminated for reasons other than lack of blindness or disability (e.g., lack of work quarters)
  • See State Medical Review Team Disability Determinations for the SMRT process.


    Social Security offers an Internet appeal process to request a review of medical decisions about eligibility for disability benefits.

    Related Links

    Benefits for Children with Disabilities
    Online Social Security Forms and Publications

    Social Security Protection If You Become Disabled
    Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

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