If you are disabled and unable to work, you may be eligible to receive disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA).
These benefits can be used to help cover the costs of medical bills and your everyday living expenses.
There are two main forms of disability benefits: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is based on financial need, and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is based on your employment history and paid into through taxes on your income.
How Long Do You Have to be Out of Work to Apply for Disability?
You have many hurdles to clear before getting approved for Social Security disability benefits. One of the clearest hurdles requires you to have missed work for 12 consecutive months.
However, you can apply for disability benefits and receive approval for financial assistance before the end of 12 months. This is because the Social Security Administration (SSA) allows you to file a claim based on the expectations of you missing at least 12 consecutive months of work.
For example, if you suffered a severe spinal cord injury, the SSA can refer to your doctor’s prognosis to predict whether you will miss the requisite amount of time to qualify for financial assistance.
The SSA uses the durational requirement to determine whether a claimant will miss 12 consecutive months of work. In addition to reviewing the prognosis presented by your physician, a team of medical examiners at the SSA conducts a thorough review of your case to determine whether you will be able to work over the next 12 months.
The medical examiners analyze your diagnostic tests, which should shine some light on the severity of your symptoms. If the diagnostic tests demonstrate you suffer from severe symptoms, the SSA might agree that you meet the durational requirement to receive financial assistance before the end of the 12-month waiting period.
The SSA might wait a few months to see if your symptoms have improved and if they have improved, the federal agency has the right to waive the durational requirement for disability benefits.
What Are Work Credits?
To be eligible to receive SSDI, you must have earned a certain amount of “work credits” over a certain amount of time. Work credits are based on the amount of time you work, and they are earned each year that you earn a wage and pay income taxes through the SSA.
Most people can earn a maximum amount of four work credits per year, but the exact amount you earn will depend on your earnings and employment status. In 2016, you must earn $1,260 per work credit.
To be eligible for SSDI, you must have earned a total of 20 work credits within the past 15 years. This is for if you are age 31 or older. There are some exceptions to this requirement for younger people.
Applicant Age and Work Credit Requirements
If you are younger than 31, it may be unreasonable to expect that you earned 20 work credits over the past 15 years, so there are different rules in place.
For example, if you are under 24 years old, you may be eligible to receive SSDI benefits if you earned 6 work credits in the 3 years before your disability began.
On the other hand, if you are between 24 and 30, you must have worked for half of the time between the age of 21 and the onset of your disability to be eligible for benefits.
Work Credit Requirements
The exact breakdown for work credit requirements is:
- 6 credits in 1.5 years if under 24 when disabled
- 8-18 credits in 2-4.5 years if 24-30 when disabled
- 20 credits in 5 years if 31-42 when disabled
- 22 credits in 5.5 years if 44 when disabled
- 24 credits in 6 years if 46 when disabled
- 26 credits in 6.6 years if 48 when disabled
- 28 credits in 7 years if 50 when disabled
- 30 credits in 7.5 years if 52 when disabled
- 32 credits in 8 years if 54 when disabled
- 34 credits in 8.5 years if 56 when disabled
- 36 credits in 9 years if 58 when disabled
- 38 credits in 9.5 years if 60 when disabled
- 40 credits in 10 years if 62 or over when disabled
If you are disabled and you do not meet the work credit requirements for your age, there are still options available to you. SSI benefits, which are based on your financial need, may be an option if you do not have a sufficient work history.
Hire a Lawyer
If you are unsure if you are eligible for SSDI benefits, consider hiring a lawyer or disability advocate to help you throughout the process.
A lawyer can help you with your initial application, gathering medical evidence, and ensuring that you are able to get the benefits you need.