Social Security

How to Know if You Qualify for Social Security Disability

If you’re experiencing a medical crisis that has left you disabled, you might be unable to work.You’re already stressed about dealing with your condition and now on top of that, you might be stressed about your finances. If that’s the case, you should look into Social Security disability benefits. But how do you know if you qualify? We’ll share more info about what Social Security disability benefits are and how to know if you qualify as well as how to get started with your application.

What are Social Security disability benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers Social Security disability benefits to those who qualify. Social Security disability benefits are given out to people who can no longer work due to disability and help provide compensation during this difficult time.

There are two types that you may qualify for:

  1. Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) ​program, which offers benefits to you and your family, based on Social Security taxes you paid.
  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)​ offers financial resources to people with disabilities who have limited financial resources.

How do you qualify for Social Security disability benefits?

There are two basic ways to qualify for Social Security disability benefits:

  1. Earned income at previous jobs/employers who paid into Social Security.
  2. Have a medical condition that qualifies.

If you can’t work for more than a year due to your condition, you likely will be eligible for benefits. Benefits are paid out monthly and based on a variety of factors.

To qualify for disability benefits, your work must have paid into Social Security and earned enough “work credits”. Work credits are built up throughout your career and serve as stepping stones to qualification. Typically, the minimum amount of credit you need to qualify is 40 work credits. Twenty of those credits need to be from the previous decade.

If you don’t have enough credits and are younger, you may qualify with fewer work credits. For example, if you’re younger than 24, you may qualify with just 6 work credits earned in the past three years.

You earn work credits based on the amount you earn and only earn four credits per year.Additionally, the amount can shift from year to year. As of 2020, you earn one work credit toward Social Security when you earn $1,410 in compensation from your employer or in self-employment income. So as of now, when you have hit $5,640 for the year, you’ve hit the max four credits you can earn annually.

Aside from the financial aspect, you must be considered disabled by the Social Security Administration. They have strict requirements and do not consider any short-term or partial disabilities, only total disability.

According to the website​,​ to be considered disabled:

  • You cannot do work that you did before;
  • We decide 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.

Typically, the medical requirements for SSDI and SSI are the same. Supplemental SecurityIncome or SSI is offered to people who are considered disabled, blind or 65 and older and have limited financial resources. Your “limited resources” means not having much cash, property, get by. The SSI benefit amount you may qualify changes year to year and some states supplement the federal benefit as well.

Whether you’re applying for SSDI or SSI or both, you’ll be asked about your income and work situation, medical status and more. You can check out all of the information you’ll need to apply for disability benefits here​​

Questions to see if you qualify

If you want to know if you qualify for Social Security disability benefits, there are a few questions that can help guide you.

1. Are you currently working and earning income or can you still do your previous work?

If that’s a yes, you might not be eligible. Currently, if you make more than $1,260 per month or if you can still do your previous work, you are ineligible.

2. Is your disability on the list or considered severe?

In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, your disability must be considered severe. On top of that, you’ll want to check if your disability is covered under the SSA’s List of Impairments​. If you don’t see it on the list, they’ll have to decide if you are eligible on a case-by-case basis.

3. Are you able to do other work?

You may not be able to do your previous work but if it’s possible to earn a living in a different way, you’ll be ineligible.

How to apply for SSDI and SSI

If you meet the criteria and think you are eligible for disability benefits, you’ll want to apply for SSDI and SSI. You may be able ​to do so online ​but only if you meet certain requirements.

You must be a legal adult and not be receiving Social Security benefits on your own at this point. You must be considered disabled and also not have been denied for benefits either. You may also apply for SSI if you are between 18 and 65, live in the US and are a US citizen, aren’t blind, haven’t applied previously, and if you’re applying for SSDI simultaneously.

It’s also possible to make an appointment and visit your local Social Security office and apply or you may apply for disability benefits over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213.

After your application is submitted it will be under review and you will be contacted via mail about their decision.

If you meet the above requirements but are unsure if you qualify, you can apply and find out so you can get the financial support you need.