The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program was established to provide benefits to disabled individuals who meet certain eligibility requirements. You may assume that you qualify for these benefits simply because you are suffering from a disabling mental or physical condition, but that’s not necessarily true.

The eligibility requirements for SSDI benefits are complex, so it’s best to speak to a Tampa Social Security disability attorney to find out if you are eligible for SSDI benefits. But below, you will find general information regarding who is eligible for SSDI benefits.

How Do You Qualify For SSDI Benefits?

The two main conditions that you must meet in order to qualify for disability benefits are:

  • You must meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of disabled, and
  • You must have earned enough work credits.

Now, you will learn what it takes to meet each of these conditions and qualify for benefits.

What is the SSA’s Definition of “Disabled”?

According to the SSA, a person is disabled if they suffer from a mental or physical condition that:

  • Has lasted for at least 12 months or is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death, and
  • Has made it impossible to work.

The SSA does not award SSDI benefits to people who suffer from short-term or partial disabilities. You must have a long-term, total disability in order to qualify for benefits.

How Does the SSA Determine If You Are Disabled?

The SSA will begin the application review process by determining if you are currently working. You are not automatically disqualified if you are working. But if you are earning more than $1,260 per month working, the SSA will conclude that you are not disabled. This means you will not qualify for SSDI benefits.

If you are not working—or if you are earning less than $1,260 per month by working—the SSA will move on to the next step in the review process. This involves evaluating the severity of your mental or physical condition. The SSA will need to see medical evidence that proves that your disability significantly limits your ability to perform basic tasks such as sitting, standing, and lifting heavy objects. If you are able to provide this evidence, the SSA will move on to the next step.

The SSA maintains a list of physical and mental medical conditions that are severe enough to be considered disabilities. If your condition is on this list, the SSA will conclude that you are disabled. But if it’s not, the SSA will need to determine if your condition is severe enough to interfere with your ability to perform any type of work you did previously.

If you are still capable of performing work you previously did, you are not disabled. But if you cannot perform any work you previously did, the SSA will need to determine if you can perform any work at all. The SSA will consider your previous work experience, education, skills, and training when determining if you are capable of finding other types of work despite your disability. If there is no work available as a result of your disability, the SSA will conclude that you meet their definition of disabled.

What Are Work Credits?

Meeting the SSA’s definition of disabled is not enough to qualify for SSDI benefits. To qualify, you must also have earned enough work credits.

You earn work credits simply by working and earning income. The income you must earn to obtain a single work credit is adjusted on an annual basis. But in 2020, the SSA will add one work credit to your record for every $1,410 of income you earn. However, you can only earn four work credits per year, which is equal to $5,640 in income. Some people take all year to earn all four work credits, whereas others can max out their work credits within a month. It all depends on your income. Either way, you cannot earn more than four work credits within a single year.

How Many Work Credits Will I Need to Qualify For SSDI Benefits?

The number of work credits you will need to qualify for benefits will depend on your age. For example, if you become disabled at age 50, you are not eligible for SSDI benefits unless you have earned at least 28 work credits.

The younger you are, the fewer work credits you will need to qualify. If you become disabled at the age of 40, you will only need 20 work credits. If you become disabled before the age of 24, you are only required to have six work credits.

You must have earned the work credits fairly recently in order to qualify for benefits. Again, the rules for this requirement will vary depending on your age. People who become disabled before the age of 24 must have earned their six work credits within the three-year period prior to their disability. If you are age 31 or older, you will typically need to have earned your work credits in the ten-year period prior to becoming disabled.

If you meet these work credit requirements and the SSA’s definition of disabled, you will qualify for SSDI benefits.

Let Us Help You Fight For the SSDI Benefits You Deserve

Are you unable to work due to a disability? If so, you may be entitled to Social Security disability benefits. But obtaining these benefits—even if you are eligible—will not be easy. Don’t face this challenge alone—turn to the trusted SSDI attorneys at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett as soon as possible.

Since 1971, our attorneys have helped disabled individuals throughout the Tampa Bay area fight for the SSDI benefits they deserve. If you are applying for benefits, or if your initial claim has been denied, contact us as soon as possible to learn how we can help you win your case.