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What Are the Legal and Financial Requirements of SSDI?

the Legal and Financial Requirements of SSDI

What Are the Legal and Financial Requirements of SSDI? You can file for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) if you are unable to work.  However, there are certain requirements that you must meet.  First, you must meet the non-medical requirements for SSDI.  Second, you must meet the medical requirements. 

To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked a certain number of years.  You must be between the ages of 18-65 years old.  You do not need to be a US citizen.  Any worker with a valid Social Security number who paid into Social Security may file for benefits.  Your medical conditions must keep you from being able to work for at least 12 months. 

Each year that you work and pay into Social Security, you earn work credits.  Generally need to earn 20 work credits to meet the requirements for SSDI.  However, if you are younger, you may meet the requirements for SSDI with fewer credits.  Additionally, you must have worked recently for SSDI.

Your date last insured (DLI) is the last date you can qualify for SSDI benefits.  Your coverage for SSDI ends after a certain amount of time from when you stopped working.  Generally, your DLI expires five years after you stop working.  However, your DLI may be within less than five years if your earnings were low or inconsistent.  You can still meet the requirements for SSDI if your DLI has expired.  You would need to prove that you meet the medical requirements for SSDI before your DLI. 

For example, say you stopped working in 2014.  As a result, your DLI would expire in 2019.  Therefore, you would need to show that your medical conditions kept you from working before 2019. 

Financial requirements for SSDI

As mentioned, SSDI requires that you earn a certain amount of work credits to qualify.  Therefore, there are no limits the amount of assets, cash or other resources you own.  Additionally, there aren’t any limits to the amount of unearned income you make.  There aren’t any limits to the amount of income your spouse makes either. 

Financial requirements for SSDI and unearned income

Social Security considers any money you receive outside of a job as unearned income.  Under SSDI, you can receive income from other sources and still qualify to receive benefits.  Examples of unearned income include:

  • Income from retirement accounts, dividends or stocks
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Rental income
  • Alimony or child support

Financial requirements for SSDI: substantial gainful activity

Since Social Security defines disability as the inability to work, if you are working, you may not qualify for SSDI.  Social Security considers work earnings over a certain amount “substantial gainful activity” or SGA.  If you earn over the SGA limit, you will not qualify for SSDI.  In 2020, earnings S1, 260 per month or (before taxes) are considered SGA.  If you are working part-time and earning less than SGA, you may still qualify for SSDI.  However, any work may make it harder for Social Security to approve your claim. 

Social Security disability requires that your medical conditions keep you from working at least 12 months.  Unlike workers’ compensation or veterans’ disability benefits, Social Security doesn’t offer partial disability.  You can qualify for SSDI:

  • If You meet strict requirements of a Social Security impairment listing
  • You fall under a medical-vocational allowance
  • Your medical conditions prevent you from working in any job at all

Social Security considers whether your medical conditions fall under their listing of impairments, known as the Blue Book.  Typically, the Blue Book requires that your medical conditions meet very specific requirements.  SSA reviews clinical findings and laboratory tests to determine if your disability meets the listing.  If you have not had the clinical or laboratory tests required in the listing, you should ask your doctor to perform them. 

Social Security uses a chart called the Medical-Vocational guidelines to evaluate your disability claim.  These guidelines are known as the “grid rules”.  The grid rules make it easier for people 50 or older to win their case.  Social Security understands that it may be harder for older people to do new or different work.  However, you must first show that you can’t do any past work.  Even if Social Security thinks you can do something else, you may still qualify for SSDI.  The rules are even more favorable if you are over 55. 

Applying the grid rules

The grid rules consider different factors.  These include your age, education, work background, work skills and your residual functional capacity (RFC.)  Your RFC is what you can do despite your medical conditions.  Once Social Security determines your RFC and work background, they will look to the grid rules.  There are separate charts for sedentary, light and medium physical categories.  For people over age 50, he more physically limited you are, the more likely the grids will show you should be found disabled. 

Example 2:  applying the grid rules over 55

For example, Andy, a 56 year old man previously worked as a janitor.  He could no longer work because he has severe arthritis in his shoulder.  He could no longer lift or carry up to 50 pounds.  Since Social Security found Andy could no longer do his past work, the grid rules allowed them to approve his disability case. 

Example 3:  applying the grid rules over 50

As another example, Barbara, a 53 year old cashier stopped working because she had severe arthritis in her knees.  She could no longer stand or walk for long periods.  Social Security found that she could not perform her past work as a cashier.  The grid rules allowed Social Security to approve her case, even though she could have done other types of work requiring less standing and walking. 

If your conditions don’t meet the listings and you don’t fall under the grid rules, you can still qualify for SSDI.  Social Security evaluates your medical records to determine your RFC.  You want to provide as much documentation and records as possible related to your medical conditions.  You should see your doctor consistently.  Your doctor can also provide an opinion to explain how your conditions impact your functioning.  If Social Security determines that your conditions keep you from working in any job, you would qualify for SSDI. 

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