Suffering from a disabling medical condition or injury is much more common than most people think. The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports that more than 25 percent of adults who are currently age 20 will become disabled before they retire. Most people pay into the Social Security fund through taxes taken from their paychecks. So if you become disabled before reaching retirement age, Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits may offer a financial safety net. However, it’s important that you understand how to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits
To learn how to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you need to understand the work credit requirements and what constitutes a qualifying disability. Your past work must have been performed in jobs through which you have paid into the Social Security fund. You must also have accumulated enough work credits and have a disability that meets the agency’s requirements. In addition, your disability must be expected to last at least one or more years or be a terminal condition.
What are the work credit requirements?
Before you will be approved for SSDI benefits, you must have worked for a long enough time and ended work fairly recently. The number of work credits that you need to have earned will depend on your age at the time you apply. Work credits are calculated based on your total wages, and you can accumulate a maximum of four per year. The wages required to earn work credits are adjusted each year. Currently, you will earn a credit for every $1,410 earned. After you have earned four work credits during a year, you’ve reached your maximum.
While younger people might be eligible for SSDI with fewer work credits, people generally need to have earned a minimum of 40 work credits. Out of those, 20 must have been earned in the past 10 years, before you became disabled.
What is a qualifying disability?
SSDI is only available to people who have become totally disabled. It does not provide benefits to people who are partially disabled or who have disabling conditions that are expected to last for less than one year. Under the SSA’s definitions, a qualifying disability is one that prevents you from returning to the type of work you previously did. You must also not be able to work in a different type of job. Finally, your condition must be expected to last one or more years or to end in death.
The SSA will look at your earnings if you are currently working. If you are earning an income of more than $1,260 per month, your claim for benefits will be denied. If you are not employed, the Disability Determination Services office will take further steps to determine whether you qualify for benefits.
The disability examiner will evaluate your condition and your ability to perform basic work tasks, including sitting, standing, walking, recalling, and lifting. If your disability does not prevent you from doing these types of things for at least 12 or more months, your application will be denied. The SSA keeps a list of disabling conditions that are considered to be so severe that people who have them cannot perform substantial gainful activity. If your condition is listed and you have earned enough work credits, you will likely be approved for benefits at this point in the analysis. If you do not have a listed condition, the examiner will then try to determine whether your disability is severe enough to qualify.
The DDS will evaluate whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the type of work that you previously did. If it does, the examiner will consider whether you can perform a different type of job with your functional limitations, taking into account your education, age, work history, and transferable skills. The agency will decide that you have a qualifying disability if you are unable to perform other types of work.
Get Help from an Attorney at Ellis & Associates
The process of securing Social Security disability benefits can be lengthy. Most applicants are initially denied for SSDI. However, if you receive a denial, that does not mean that you should give up. Working with an experienced SSDI lawyer at Ellis & Associates might help you win your claim during the appeals process. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling 508-791-7333 or sending us a message online.