The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 61 million adults in the U.S. are currently living with a disability. Many of these adults rely on Social Security Disability benefits to cover their living expenses and make ends meet month after month.

If you are disabled, you may be entitled to these benefits as well. Everyone’s situation is unique, so it’s best to seek legal representation from a Bradenton Social Security attorney to determine if you qualify. But for now, here’s what you need to know about the eligibility requirements for Social Security disability benefits:

What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits through its Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. There are two main conditions that you must meet in order to qualify for SSDI benefits. These conditions are:

  • You must meet the SSA’s definition of disabled.
  • You must have worked long enough and recently enough to qualify.

What is the SSA’s Definition of Disabled?

The SSA only pays SSDI benefits to individuals who are totally disabled.

This means the SSA will only consider you disabled if:

  • You are unable to perform work that you did before,
  • You cannot perform alternative work due to your disability,
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or will result in death.

This is a very narrow definition of “disabled,” so many people are unsure of whether or not they qualify for benefits. This is why it’s important to learn about the process that the SSA uses to determine if an applicant meets their definition of disabled.

How Does the SSA Determine If You Are Disabled?

The SSA will determine whether or not someone is disabled by answering these questions:

Are you working?

If you earn more than $1,260 per month working, you will not qualify for disability benefits. This is because your condition clearly does not impact your ability to work and earn an income.

If you are not working, the SSA will move onto the next question to determine your eligibility. 

Is your condition severe?

To answer this question, the SSA will need to determine how your condition affects your ability to perform basic tasks such as lifting, sitting, standing, remembering information, and walking.

If it doesn’t restrict your ability to perform these basic functions, the SSA will most likely determine that you are not disabled. If it does, the SSA will move onto the next step. 

Is your condition included on the SSA’s list of disabling conditions?

The SSA’s “Blue Book” contains a list of the most severely disabling physical and mental conditions. If your condition is on this list, the SSA will conclude that you are disabled. If your condition is not on this list, you may still qualify for benefits. But first, the SSA will need to move to the next step to evaluate your condition and determine if it is as disabling as those found on the list.

Are you able to perform the work you did previously?

The SSA will need to determine if your condition is severe enough to interfere with your ability to perform the work you previously did. If you are still capable of performing this work, you are not disabled.

But if you cannot perform this work, the SSA will move onto the final step in the process of determining whether or not you are disabled.

Can you perform any type of work?

If you are no longer able to perform the work you did in the past, the SSA will need to determine if you can perform any other type of work. The SSA looks at a number of factors when making this determination, including:

  • Medical conditions
  • Age
  • Prior work experience
  • Education
  • Training/Skills

If you are able to find other work despite your disability, you will not qualify for benefits. But if you are not able to perform any type of work, you are considered disabled in the eyes of the SSA.

How Much Work Do You Need to Qualify For SSDI?

The SSDI program is funded by payroll tax contributions from both employees and employers. As a result, you will not qualify for SSDI unless you have worked long enough and recently enough to meet certain standards established by the SSA.

The way that the SSA determines whether you have worked long enough to qualify is by calculating how many work credits you have earned.

How Do You Earn Work Credits?

You can earn work credits simply by working and earning an income. The amount of income you need to earn to obtain one work credit will vary slightly from year-to-year. In 2020, you earn one credit for every $1,410 of income you earn. However, you cannot earn more than four work credits per year. This means any income you earn over $5,640 per year will not count towards your work credits.

How Many Work Credits Do You Need to Qualify for SSDI?

The number of work credits you will need to qualify for SSDI will vary depending on the age at which you became disabled. The younger you were when you first became disabled, the fewer work credits you will need to qualify for SSDI benefits.

For example, if you become disabled at the age of 35, you will only need 20 work credits to qualify. But if you become disabled at the age of 50, you will need 28 work credits to qualify. Anyone who is 62 years of age or older will need 40 work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits.

Your work credits must have been earned in the 10 years prior to the year you became disabled.

Discuss Your Case With A Social Security Attorney in Bradenton

If you are unable to work due to a disability, find out if you qualify for SSDI benefits by speaking to our attorneys today. Tell us more about your unique situation so we can determine your eligibility, assist you with the application process, and fight for the benefits you deserve.

If you’ve already applied for benefits and your application has been denied, we can guide you through the process of filing an appeal. Let us work tirelessly to secure the disability benefits you need.