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Qualify for SSDI Benefits

When hard-working American taxpayers suddenly find themselves disabled and unable to earn an income, they usually wonder whether or not they will be able to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. These disabled workers soon find themselves in awe of how complex the Social Security system can be and how hard it often is to understand what qualifies as a disability and what does not.

If you are unable to work and are confused as to how you can qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the following information will take the guesswork out of the disability claim process, shedding light on exactly what is required to qualify for these benefits.

What is a Disability?

The first thing you need to consider when determining whether or not you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits is whether or not you are disabled by the Social Security Administration's standards.

You need to understand that just because you are unable to continue working in your current occupation due to your condition, the Social Security Administration might not determine that you are disabled by their standards. In order to be considered disabled, you must be suffering from a long-term (12 months or more) or permanent disability that completely prevents you from performing any type of work activity whatsoever.

For example, suppose that you have been working as an administrative assistant for the past fifteen years. Your job may have required you to move around the office quite a bit. Now, due to a disabling condition, you are no longer able to perform the duties required of your work activity. While you may be disabled in your eyes, the Social Security Administration may not see it that way. They may determine that you could successfully perform another type of work, such as that of a receptionist. If it is possible that you can perform other types of work in the national economy, you will likely not qualify for SSDI benefits.

The Social Security Administration has published a “Blue Book” of medical listings that qualify individuals for SSDI benefits. If your condition is included in these published medical listings or you can prove that your condition equals the severity of one of these listings, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance payments. However, proving that you are disabled is not the only factor when determining your eligibility for SSDI benefits.

Do You Have Enough Work Credits?

Your disability alone is not enough to qualify you for SSDI benefits. You must have earned enough work credits during the course of your employment to be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. The work credits needed may vary from individual to individual, but they are basically as outlined below:

  • If you are younger than 24 years of age, you may qualify for SSDI payments if you have earned 6 work credits in the 3-year period that ended when your disability began.
  • If you are between the ages of 24 and 31, you may qualify if you have credit for working half the time between the age of 21 and the time you became disabled. For example, if you became disabled at age 25, you would need credit for 2 years of work (8 credits) between the ages of 21 and 25.
  • If you are older than 31 years of age, you must have the number of work credits outlined in the chart shown below. As a general rule, you must have earned at least 20 of the credits during the 10 years immediately prior to your disability onset.
If you were born after 1929 and became disabled at age: Work Credits Needed:
31-42 20
44 22
46 24
48 26
50 28
52 30
54 32
56 34
58 36
60 38
62 or above 40

If you can prove to the Social Security Administration through the use of medical evidence that you have a disability that meets one of their medical listings or that you are suffering from a condition that meets the equivalent of one of their published medical listings and you have earned enough work credits as outlined above, you will be able to qualify for SSDI benefits.

Your SSDI Case

It is important to remember, however, that even though you may qualify for these benefits, it does not mean you will automatically be awarded SSDI payments when you first submit your Social Security Disability application. You may need to enlist the services of a qualified Social Security Disability attorney or advocate and may need to pursue a disability appeal in order to obtain the SSDI benefits to which you are entitled. An experienced disability lawyer will ensure that all documentation is completed thoroughly and that your case is presented to the SSA in the strongest manner possible.