Social Security Disability (SSD or SSDI) benefits are available to disabled workers who qualify for the program based on several non-medical eligibility requirements. Suffering from a qualifying disability is obviously a necessary element of your eligibility. But what are the other criteria that you need to meet for your physical or mental impairment to entitle you to receive SSD benefits?
Paying FICA Payroll Taxes
To be eligible to receive SSDI benefits, you need to have paid taxes into the Social Security account.
Workers who receive weekly or biweekly payroll checks or direct deposits know that every check has deductions taken from it by the government called FICA taxes. FICA stands for the Federal Insurance Contribution Act, a rule that puts your taxes into a pot from which to pay Social Security and Medicare benefits. You and your employer each contribute 6.2% of your gross wages from every paycheck just to Social Security. Another 1.5% each is paid into Medicare.
Self-employed workers don’t have a separate employer to pay half the taxes, so they must pay the entire 15.4% in taxes directly to the government. Workers who don’t pay taxes into the system are not eligible to collect benefits, except for spouses or children of workers who did pay the taxes.
A portion of the money is used to pay the benefits of current recipients of SSD and Social Security Retirement and the remainder is deposited into the Social Security Trust Fund to replenish the account.
Work Credits (Did You Work Long Enough?)
Work credits are acquired by earning taxable income. Applicants for SSD benefits need to have worked long enough to accumulate as many as 40 work credits, depending on their age. In 2021, you earn one credit for each $1,470 you earn. When you earn $5,880 (4 x $1,470), you would get four credits which is the maximum for any one year. By this formula, a worker would have to work for 10 years to reach 40 work credits and become eligible for SSD benefits.
Exceptions to the Rule — The number of work credits needed to qualify for SSD benefits depends on your age at the time you become disabled. The plan allows people to qualify to receive SSD benefits with fewer work credits because they had fewer years in which to accumulate all 40 credits typically required.
Understanding the complicated age and work credit requirements to qualify for SSD benefits is sometimes difficult for everyone. Expert SSD lawyers and advocates at Attorney Scott London’s Law Office and London Eligibility will guide you through the process and answer all your questions. We will work with you to ensure that you receive every possible SSD and SSI benefit you deserve.
For an overview of how an applicant’s age at the time of their disability and their needed work credits, here’s a chart outlining the general requirements. We work with these charts and work credit criteria every day, so don’t be confused. Contact us today and we’ll get you the information you need.
Recent Work Test
The number of years you work and the number of work credits you accumulate are important to determine whether you can apply for SSD benefits. But how recently you earned those credits is another factor the Social Security Administration regulations consider.
Again, at London Eligibility, Attorney Scott London and his team know how complicated and confusing these government regulations can be. Let our trained SSD and SSI advocates assist you in preparing and pressing your SSDI and SSI claims.
Why Is the Recent Work Test Important? — The government looks at how recent your work credits were earned to determine what your “last date insured” was. Like an insurance policy, if you haven’t paid FICA taxes recently enough, the government can rule that you are no longer insured.
But equally important is the date your disability began; that is your disability onset date. Even if you did not apply for disability when you could have earlier, if your “disability onset date” preceded your “last date insured,” then you would still be able to apply for and win SSD benefits.
Earnings Below “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA) Level
Another important non-medical eligibility requirement for SSD benefits is the inability to earn an income greater than the “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA) level the government sets each year. In 2021, the SGA is set at a monthly cap of $1,310 for non-blind SSD applicants. There are exceptions and deductions from income that can be applied, but the SGA is a firm earning ceiling.
Consult with experienced SSD lawyers and advocates at London Eligibility, Attorney Scott London’s Disability Law Office to get the complete breakdown of how these rules affect your SSD claim.