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What You Need To Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits

How Does The Social Security Administration Define A Disability?

If you wish to qualify to earn Social Security disability benefits, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Your condition must be considered severe. Not every condition is automatically viewed as severe. While severity is somewhat subjective, the Social Security Administration (SSA) typically distinguishes severe from non-severe by determining if the condition substantially impairs someone’s ability to complete normal daily tasks. This is measured in adults by evaluating their ability to complete work requirements. Whereas in children, the SSA evaluates their ability to complete daily tasks that otherwise healthy same age children should be able to perform.
  • Your condition has to last at least one year or result in death. 12 months is the minimum duration that a condition must last to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSA). If your condition is considered severe and disabling but won’t last at least 12 months, you will not be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. SSD benefits are meant to provide financial assistance to those with permanent disabling conditions, so this requirement is stringent.
  • Your condition has to result in sufficient physical or mental limitation or even both so that the individual cannot complete work from a previous occupation (any past work completed within the last 15 years). It must also be severe to the point where the individual is unable to perform normal responsibilities for a different occupation.

If you meet each of these requirements, it’s very likely that you will be able to receive Social Security disability benefits successfully. Most applicants are denied during the initial application and reconsideration stage, primarily due to the consensus that the applicant can work a previous job or another occupation suited to their condition. If the SSA determines that you are in fact able to complete work outside of your current occupation, then it is unlikely that they will further consider your case.

However, if you make it to the court hearing stage, you may be able to defend your case to the court rather than the solely the SSA. Even if you do not have a lawyer, you may still choose to present your another form to the court and challenge the SSA’s decision on your ability to complete another form of work.

Objecting to the SSA’s ruling will require a well documented work history for the past 15 years as well as strong knowledge regarding commonly discussed concepts like substantial gainful activity (SGA), unsuccessful work attempts, work skills transferability, and several medical-vocation guidelines which are utilized to determine if you are disabled or not depending on several factors. Naturally, it’s highly recommended you have a professional Social Security disability lawyer to represent you in court and help you strengthen your claim to increase your chances of winning the favor of the court.

What Do I Need to Qualify For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

The criteria that are necessary to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are more strict than the requirements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Eligibility for SSDI benefits requires that you meet each of the following criteria:

  • Work an occupation that the Social Security Administration covers
  • Work an eligible occupation for at least 5 of the past 10 years
  • Possess a medical condition that is severe enough to prevent you from working and satisfies the SSA’s definition of disability.

Most SSDI applicants are denied because they have not fulfilled the requirement where you must work five of the past ten years. There is still hope; if you don’t happen to fulfill each of the SSA’s requirements to earn SSDI benefits, you could still qualify for SSI benefits. Also note, the five of the past ten years requirement is on a case to case basis, as you may not have to work that long to qualify if you are a younger individual.

If you are a younger adult who became disabled at 19, naturally you will not be able to collect the same amount of work credits as a 65-year-old adult. You may only need 1-2 years of work credits to qualify for SSDI, depending on your age and the actual amount of work credits earned.

Another component of SSDI is that you need to work an occupation that pays into Social Security through certain taxes. SSDI is funded from select taxes, so if you haven’t paid into Social Security, you will not be able to earn SSDI benefits.

What Do I Need To Qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Supplemental Security Income or SSI is a Social Security disability program provided to those with a disabling condition and don’t earn enough money to be considered as substantial gainful activity. Some circumstances allow 65-year-old applicants to qualify for SSI even if they are not entirely disabled according to the SSA’s total disability guidelines.

For those younger than 65 years, it is required that you provide substantial evidence that you are entirely disabled and do not possess any other means of revenue to support yourself if you wish to qualify for SSI benefits. You will need to be able to provide evidence that shows not only that your disability prevents you from completing your current work, but ANY potential occupations.

SSI has a financial requirement that you cannot possess more than $2,000 worth of total countable assets. However, if you are married, you may jointly possess up to $3,000 in countable assets. Countable assets are anything of value that you posses excluding your home and one vehicle. Your assets could include money in savings and checking accounts, IRAs, and other retirement accounts, cash value in life insurance plans, vehicles (other than the primary vehicle), and practically anything else with a dollar value.

If you meet the SSA’s definition of disabled in addition to providing proof that you’re in financial need (possessing no more than $2,000 in assets), you may be eligible for SSI benefits.