Understanding Social Security Disability Requirements

Understanding the Social Security disability requirements is a necessary step toward receiving disability benefits, and we can help you gain that knowledge.

Understanding SSD Requirements

First, you need to have worked in jobs that paid into Social Security. If your employer paid into Social Security, then you were “covered” by Social Security during that time.

By working such jobs, you were collecting Social Security work credits. You can earn up to four work credits every year. In 2018, every $1,320 you earn as wages (or as self-employment income) grants you one work credit; once you have earned $5,280, you have four credits for the year.

The amount of work required to earn a work credit changes each year, so is it worth your time to check back and see how much work would be required for work credits.

Depending on the age you are when you become disabled, you need a certain number of work credits to qualify for disability benefits. In most cases, you need 40 work credits, and you need 20 of those work credits to have been earned in the past decade – ending with the year you became disabled.

Many workers earn four credits each year, and therefore many people applying for Social Security disability benefits have earned 40 work credits in the past decade. You only need 20 in the past decade. However, given other injuries and unemployment, there are often lapses in people’s earning schedules and working histories.

Younger workers, since they may not have been in the work force as long, may qualify with a lower number of earned work credits.

Much of that consideration involving younger workers is done on a case-by-case basis. It may make a difference where you were working, or what kind of work you were doing during that time. We can help consult you on the possibilities offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

For people who do not have a very thorough work history, or who have already been disabled for a lengthy period of time, they may qualify for SSI (Supplement Security Income) through the general tax revenues of the federal government rather than SSDI through the Social Security Administration. However, to qualify for SSI, your income must be below a certain level, which is a different level depending on whether you are single or married, and depending on whether you have children whom you claim as dependents.

For the SSDI claims, however, there are other requirements you must meet. For one, you must meet the Social Security Administration definition of disability. This means:

  • You cannot do work that you did before;
  • The SSA decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s), and
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

Partial disability and short-term disability do not qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Short-term disability insurance generally begins faster than long-term disability coverage, and covers situations that are more limited in duration, such as:

  • Maternity leave – though you should read up on the Family and Medical Leave Act to see if you may qualify for that instead of short-term disability insurance
  • Broken bone, if it is a case in which the bone will heal and you resume work
  • Surgery from which you may heal and return to work in a month or less