5 Signs You May Be Approved for Disability

Table of Contents 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides monthly disability benefits for those who are unable to work due to a disabling condition. These benefits, known as Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income, can help pay for daily living needs, like food, clothes, medication, rent, and more.

To qualify, you must meet the SSA's definition of disability. You must be experiencing a mental or physical disability that is expected to result in death or has lasted (or is expected to last) for a continuous 12-month period. 

Getting approved for disability can be a difficult, but important process. Here are some signs your claim may be approved for disability benefits.

Signs Your Disability Claim Will be Approved

While there may be signs your disability claim will be approved (i.e., you get approved for a disability benefit), you will, nonetheless, need to support your SSDI application by providing sufficient medical evidence to support your claim. You need to prove that you are no longer able to work for at least 12 months because of your disability.  

1. You Have Sufficient Medical Evidence

The SSA denies many disability claims because applicants failed to submit convincing medical evidence. As the official medical resource that the SSA uses to determine benefits eligibility, the Blue Book lists all the medical conditions and accompanying symptoms that qualify claimants for Social Security disability benefits. A document signed by your physician that confirms the accuracy of every diagnostic test should be a part of the medical evidence you submit along with your Social Security disability claim.

You should submit the following medical records and reports to bolster your disability claim:

  • Record of medical history
  • Diagnostic reports
  • X-rays and CT scans
  • Description of treatments
  • Prescription drug receipts

2. You Cannot Work For At Least 12 Months

If you can demonstrate that you cannot work or perform work that is outside of your trained area of expertise, then the likelihood of getting a disability claim approved increases. The SSA requires disability claimants to prove they have not worked for the last 12 consecutive months. Provide evidence that your disability prevents you from engaging in any other type of work or that there is a lack of skills applicable to an alternative employment or job.

Your employer submits documentation that proves you did not work over the past year, but you should supplement your employer’s information with copies of your paycheck stubs and monthly bank statements.

The SSA may deny a disability benefits application if you don’t provide sufficient evidence to prove your disability prevents you from working for at least 12 months.

If you have sufficient medical evidence including documentation from your doctor you will have a higher chance of being awarded disability benefits. This doesn’t only mean test results and your physician’s report but also how well you are responding to treatment and what the likely outcomes are. You can also submit a disability doctor letter of support for your claim.

3. You Have Earned Enough Work Credits

Work credits are 'building blocks' earned by paying Social Security taxes. These are then used by the SSA to determine if you have worked long enough to qualify for disability benefits. If you earn enough work credits, then the SSA may approve your disability claim. In 2023, American workers gained one work credit for every $1,640 generated from company wages or self-employment compensation. 

The SSA establishes the number of work credits needed to qualify for disability benefits by referring to the age when an applicant first experienced symptoms of a disability. Typically you require 40 credits, 20 of which you have earned in the last 10 years up to the year you become disabled. However, a young worker may qualify without the need to have earned quite so many work credits. The amount required is dependent on age and is listed below:

AgeWork Credit Requirements
<24 You will need 6 credits in the 3-year period which ends when your disability began.
24-31 You will need work credits which are equal to half the time you worked between the age of 21 and the date your disability began.
31-42You will need a minimum of 20 work credits.
>42The number of work credits you will need is based on a sliding scale and adds two credits every two years to the 20-credit requirement.

4. You Earn Less Than Substantial Gainful Activity

Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is the amount of work someone can perform each month. "Gainful" work is work that is performed for pay or profit, or would typically be performed for profit. Work is considered 'Substantial' if it requires activities that are physical, mental, or both. 

The fourth sign that the SSA may approve your disability claim is you are not able to participate in substantial gainful activity. SSA guidelines set the minimum monthly SGA based on the severity of an applicant’s disability. For 2023, the monthly SGA for blind applicants is $2,460, while the monthly SGA for non-blind applicants falls to $1,470. Federal regulatory standards require a higher amount of SGA for blind applicants.

5. The SSA Recognizes Your Condition as Disabling

If you can show that your disabling condition meets the criteria found in a Blue Book listing, then this is a sign you may be awarded disability benefits. If you cannot meet any listing you may qualify through a medical vocational allowance and by completing a residual functional capacity (RFC) form after tests conducted by your doctor.

Under Social Security's rules, anyone who is capable of performing "Substantial Gainful Activity" (SGA) is not eligible for disability benefits.

In 2023, the SGA limit is $1,470 monthly for anyone who is not blind and $2,460 for those who are considered to be statutorily blind. Anyone who earns more than the monthly SGA limit won’t qualify for disability benefits.

However, if you have earned enough work credits in your working life, you earned less than the SGA you may be eligible to claim disability benefits.

Just like your disability being listed in the SSA Blue Book isn’t an automatic guarantee of eligibility for disability benefits, earning a monthly income that falls below the SGA limit isn’t a guarantee that your disability benefits application will be approved.

If you have had a favorable disability hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may tell you at the end of your hearing if you have been approved for disability benefits.

That is called a bench decision. If a medical expert says your medical condition meets a Blue Book listing, then you will likely qualify for disability benefits. If a vocational specialist says that you cannot return to work and you can’t do any other jobs with your disability this is a sign that the ALJ will approve your disability benefits claim.

Should You Hire a Social Security Attorney?

Since most claims are denied disability, applicants should work with a Social Security lawyer who specializes in helping clients receive disability benefits from the SSA. An attorney or disability advocate can walk you through the application process, with a focus on collecting the type of strong medical evidence that the SSA wants to see.

Because the claim process can take months to come to a conclusion, working with a Social Security lawyer might be able to move the process along by staying in regular contact with the SSA. A disability lawyer will be able to tell you how much in disability you can get. If the SSA denies your claim, an attorney can help you file a reconsideration appeal with the SSA. 

Complete the Free Case Evaluation on this page to get in touch with a participating attorney in our network who takes cases in your area today! 

To calculate how much you could receive in disability benefits, use our Social Security benefits calculator


If you are unsure if your claim is going to be approved for benefits, signs like having enough medical evidence, being unable to work for at least 12 months, having enough work credits, and earning less than the SGA and the SSA recognizing your disability can all point to a successful claim. Keep in mind that each disability case is different, so decisions vary on a case-by-case basis. To help understand if you may have a successful claim, consider speaking with an attorney. With no upfront costs, 

Signs Your Claim May Be Approved By Condition

More information on some signs your disability claim will be approved with a specific condition is provided in the list below. It is critically important to point out that every person who finds that some, or all, of these signs as being relevant to their situation will almost definitely not have their disability claim actually approved. Rather, this information provides you with helpful indicators that can equip you with some tools to have the slightest idea of how your claim might be going while you await the decision(s).

Curious what conditions automatically qualify you for disability? Click here to find out.


Additional Resources