The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits – Social Security Disability insurance, or SSDI – to individuals who are unable to work due to a medical condition. But how do you know if you qualify? The requirements are not entirely straight-forward, but we can help you figure it out.
Medical Requirements for SSDI
The definition of disability used by the SSA follows three rules. In order to qualify for SSDI, you cannot be able to do work you did before, you cannot adjust to other work, and your condition must be expected to last or already have lasted at least a year. In other words, your disability must be total, and it must go on for a significant amount of time.
Your condition must interfere with basic work functions. The SSA maintains a list of disabling conditions, and if your condition is on the list, you are automatically eligible. If your condition is not on the list, but it is just as severe as those that are, or if it is severe enough to keep you from doing the work you did before, you may still be eligible. If your condition doesn’t keep you from performing other work, based on your age, experience, and transferrable skills, you may not be eligible for SSDI.
There are a few special situations that change these requirements or extend benefits to relatives. Individuals who are blind or who have low vision may be eligible for SSDI if their vision impairment in addition to another condition prevents them from working. The widow or widower of a disabled worker may receive disability benefits after the worker’s death if they are at least 60 years old – or even 50, if the survivor is also disabled within seven years of the worker’s death.
Financial Requirements for SSDI
When it comes to financial eligibility for disability benefits, the SSA looks at how much you have worked in the past and the level at which you could be working if you didn’t have a medical condition limiting you. As you work, you earn credits based on your total wages or self-employed income. In 2016, you earn one credit for every $1,260 you earn. You can earn a maximum of four credits in a year, or $5,040 of income.
To qualify for SSDI, you need to have earned a number of these work credits based on your age. The number starts at 6 credits at age 21 to 24, and it scales up to a maximum of 40 credits at age 62 and up. From age 31 on, at least 20 of your credits must have been earned in the last 10 years.
If you’ve earned enough work credits in the past, you must still be unable to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to your disability. For an individual who isn’t blind, SGA is work that earns at least an average of $1,820 per month in 2016. For blind individuals, this value is only $1,130 per month. If you are working but making less than the value of SGA on average, you may be eligible.