5 Ways to Know Whether You Qualify for SSDI
If you’re no longer able to work due to a disability, you likely need another source of income. Social Security disability (SSDI) can be the safety net you need after an injury or medical condition cuts off your ability to support yourself.
You’ve probably heard that the SSDI application process is complicated and most people are denied at first. So, you may be uncertain about how likely you are to be awarded disability benefits. The best way to get information about the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) standards for awarding disability benefits and whether you may qualify is to talk to an experienced Social Security disability benefits advocate. To learn more about your rights and how Disability Help Group can help you put together the most robust application or appeal possible, call 800-800-3332.
While you’re waiting to talk to a disability advocate, the information below will give you an overview of the most important factors in the SSDI determination.
SSDI Eligibility Factors
Any U.S. citizen or legal resident who fulfills certain requirements may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. If you’re wondering whether you may qualify, consider these factors:
- You must have sufficient work credits
Social Security disability provides benefits for workers who have paid into the Social Security system through payroll deductions or self-employment taxes. For most workers, the number of work credits required to qualify for disability is the same as the number required to qualify for retirement benefits. However, SSDI has an added requirement that a certain number of those credits are “recent.”
The general rule is that you must have accumulated 40 work credits across your working life, and 20 of those must have been accumulated in the 10 years before you became disabled. You can earn up to four work credits per year, so that means at a minimum you must have worked 10 years in total, and at least five years in the past 10. However, the requirements are reduced for younger workers who have not had the opportunity to build up the standard number of work credits.
You can check on whether you have sufficient work credits on the SSA website.
- You must not be engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA)
To qualify for Social Security disability, you must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. If you’re already earning about the amount the SSA considers substantial gainful activity, you won’t qualify for benefits. In 2023, that number is $1,470/month. For applicants who are legally blind, it’s $2,460/month. However, the SGA cut-off is adjusted every year.
Note, though, that simply earning below the threshold doesn’t qualify you for benefits. The SSA is interested in whether you are able to work, not just whether you happen to be working when you apply for disability benefits.
- You must be unable to work or have very limited ability to work
Limited work won’t necessarily disqualify you from receiving SSDI benefits. Instead, the SSA will look at whether you are able to engage in substantial gainful activity. One step in that process is to consider whether you are able to perform work that you have performed in the past. If you can’t–for instance, if you did warehouse work for 30 years and then a back injury prevented you from going back to that type of work–you may be eligible.
However, being unable to perform the type of work you’ve done in the past won’t necessarily mean you’re eligible. SSA will also look at whether you can do other work. This determination includes factors such as your educational level and age.
- You have difficulty with day-to-day activities outside of work
In determining whether you are able to work, the SSA will consider how your disability impacts other areas of your life, such as your ability to cook, clean, engage in social activities, attend to your own personal hygiene, and more. The applicant provides information about daily activities in the Function Report, and SSA also takes information from friends or family members who have observed the applicant’s day-to-day life.
This information helps the SSA understand the extent of the limitations caused by your disability and determine whether or not there is work you could perform.
- Whether your disability is listed as a qualifying condition
This factor is often misunderstood. Not everyone who suffers from a listed condition qualifies for disability benefits. To receive benefits, you must meet certain listed criteria for symptoms and limitations. It will be up to you, your doctor, and anyone close to you who submits information to establish that you meet the criteria.
Those whose conditions are not listed may still qualify. The main distinction is that when your condition is listed in the Social Security Blue Book, the listing spells out the criteria an applicant must meet to qualify for SSDI based on that condition. If the condition isn’t listed, the assessment is a bit more subjective, and you will have to prove that your condition (or combination of conditions) is as severe as a listed condition.
An Experienced Disability Benefits Advocate Can Help
The SSDI application process can be overwhelming, and making sure your application and supporting materials are complete, accurate, and persuasive can be the difference between receiving benefits and receiving a denial letter. Many people are initially denied SSDI benefits simply because they didn’t understand exactly what the SSA was looking for. Unfortunately, an unnecessary denial can delay approval by months, or even two years or more.
The disability benefits advocates at Disability Help Group have extensive experience with disability applications and the SSDI appeals process. And, we’re fully dedicated to helping people with disabilities get the benefits they deserve. We can help you put together the strongest application possible, choose the right documentation to accompany your application or request for reconsideration, and make sure that your information is presented in a clear, organized manner that will allow decision-makers to find what they’re looking for quickly.
To learn more about how we can help, call 800-800-3332 right now, or contact us here.