Social Security Disability Eligibility Requirements

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Understanding Social Security Disability

The Social Security Disability (SSD) program—also known as SSDIB for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and SSI for Supplemental Security Income—pays benefits to disabled Americans and certain family members of the disabled individual. When you apply for SSD benefits, it’s imperative that you meet all the criteria and your application is fully completed. With the help of our trusted legal team, we can help you understand the Social Security Disability eligibility requirements.

Initial SSD applications have about a 67 percent chance of denial; however, it is essential that you not let this number dissuade you if you are disabled and unable to work! Many initial applications are denied because the proper supporting documents are not included, or the application was improperly completed. Those who start the process with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney from Schaffer & Associates stand a much better chance of approval, either at the initial stage or later on, in the appeals process. The attorneys at Schaffer & Associates believe you deserve SSD benefits when you are disabled and unable to work and will fight for your rights and your future.

Five Things to Know Before Applying for Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability Eligibility Requirements to Qualify for Benefits

Before applying for benefits, it is helpful to know whether you meet the Social Security Disability eligibility requirements. This will save you time with an application and supporting documents if you do not qualify. First of all, understanding whether you should be filing for SSDIB or SSI benefits (or both) is imperative. Please see our SSA page regarding the differences between SSDIB and SSI.

To be eligible for SSDIB, you must have sufficient work credits. Work credits are earned by working in jobs that are covered by Social Security. This means that Social Security is taken from your check, or, if you are self-employed, you pay into Social Security. Work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn four work credits per year. However, the amount of wages necessary for a work credit changes from year to year.

For example, in 2020, you earn one credit for each $1,410 in wages or self-employment income. Once you have earned $5,640 in wages in 2020, you have earned your four credits for the year. The number of work credits you need to qualify for benefits will depend on your age when you become disabled. Generally speaking, SSD requires you to have 40 work credits. Twenty of those 40 work credits must be earned within the past ten years. Younger workers who become disabled may qualify for SSD with fewer work credits. This does not apply to SSI benefits.

Other Qualifications

To qualify for SSD, you must have a medical condition that is considered severe and meets the definition of a disability. Generally speaking, SSD will pay monthly benefits to those unable to work for at least a year due to a disability. It is important to note that, unlike some other programs, Social Security Disability does not pay benefits for short-term disability or partial disability.

Social Security considers you to have a permanent disability if:

  • You are unable to do work you did before your disability,
  • You are unable to adjust to other work due to your medical condition(s), and your disability has either lasted a year or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

The assumption by Social Security is that working families typically have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disability (savings, insurance, investments, workers’ compensation, etc.). Consider the following when determining whether you will qualify for SSD benefits:

  1. If working while filing for disability, are your earnings at “SGA” sustained gainful activity, which for 2020 is gross earnings of $1,260 or more per month? If so, you are not eligible for disability through the Social Security Act, regardless of the severity of your condition.
  2. Do you have a medically determinable severe impairment(s) that limits your ability to perform basic job functions, and has it done so or will it do so for at least twelve months?
  3. Can you do the work you previously did?
  4. Can you do any other type of work?

Additionally, the Compassionate Allowances initiative grants disability as soon as a diagnosis is confirmed. Examples of illnesses that qualify under the Compassionate Allowances initiative include pancreatic cancer, ALS, and acute leukemia. Social Security also has special situation programs for the blind or those with low vision, a disabled worker’s widow or widower, a disabled child, or a wounded warrior or veteran.

Common Misconceptions Regarding SSD Requirements

There are many misconceptions regarding Social Security Disability, including the following:

  • All applications for SSD are initially denied. While a significant number of SSD applications are denied, not all are denied. Approximately 1/3 of all initial SSD applications are approved, depending on the state. Of course, you want to do everything you can to maximize your chance of approval. Having an experienced attorney can help. In addition, you have the right to appeal if your initial SSD application is denied.
  • If you appeal and have a hearing with an “ALJ” Administrative Law Judge, your claim will automatically be approved. While this is not true, you do stand a chance of having your SSD claim approved at your ALJ disability hearing.
  • You cannot claim SSD benefits until you have been disabled for a year. While you must have an injury or illness that prevents you from working for at least one year, this doesn’t mean that you have to wait a full year to start the process. If you have a medical diagnosis that suggests your condition will last for an entire year or result in death, you can immediately file your initial application.
  • If you continue to reapply, eventually you will be successful in getting SSD benefits. Actually, reapplying after being denied is typically a more difficult hurdle to overcome and be successful with than having your initial application approved. Discussing your options with an experienced attorney can provide you support to ensure the best possible outcome for you.

How a Schaffer & Associates Attorney Can Help You Through the SSD Process

If you are disabled and unable to work, you need help in the form of Social Security Disability benefits. To receive those benefits, you need a highly skilled legal professional from Schaffer & Associates to guide you through an often complicated and challenging process. At Schaffer & Associates, we are experienced, compassionate, and fully dedicated to you and your future. At Schaffer & Associates, LPA, we have extensive experience helping injured individuals and their families living with disabilities. We can help you file your claim and will remain accessible to you throughout the life of the claim. Contact Schaffer & Associates today!