When you pay Social Security taxes on earnings from a job or through self-employment you are doing more than contributing toward your retirement. If you become disabled and unable to work, your work history could make you eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance.
Qualifying for benefits through SSDI is not, by any means, an easy task. According to data released by the Social Security Administration, only about a third of the people who submit applications receive approval notices while two-thirds of the applications are denied.
Forget anything you may have heard on social media about SSA deliberately denying benefits to qualified applicants. The low approval rate has to do with the tough eligibility requirements and the difficulty of the application process. Here is some information to help you get a better understanding of the eligibility process. It is not, however, a substitute for the outstanding advice and skilled representation provided by the knowledgeable disability advocates at London Eligibility.
What Does It Mean To Be Disabled And Eligible For SSDI?
Unlike state programs that pay benefits for temporary disability of short duration, the SSDI program limits its benefits to people with medical conditions causing total, long-term disability. For purposes of SSDI, federal law defines disabled as being unable to engage in substantial gainful activity as a result of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment. The impairment or impairments must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months or result in death.
Medically determinable impairments must be capable of detection through medically acceptable clinical techniques and laboratory and diagnostic testing. Statements about the symptoms experienced by a person absent clinical exams and other medical evidence to support them are insufficient to prove that a person suffers from a physical or mental impairment.
What Is Substantial Gainful Activity?
To be consistent in evaluating the ability of a person to engage in substantial gainful activity, the SSA shifted the focus away from evaluating energies expended, hours worked, and other factors related to the work performed. It now uses earnings to determine the ability of a person to engage in substantial gainful activity.
A person claiming to be disabled is considered to be capable of engaging in substantial gainful activity if they have monthly earnings of $1,310. The monthly amount for someone who is blind is $2,190. Both amounts are for 2021 and can change each year depending on fluctuations in the national average wage index.
In evaluating your disability, part of the process looks at work you did in the past to determine if you could do it even with your physical or mental impairments. It also looks at your education, skills, and training to determine if you may be capable of engaging in a type of work that you may not have done in the past but could do now with the impairments caused by your medical condition.
Work Credits And SSDI Eligibility
Before SSA looks at your disability to determine if it satisfies the requirements to qualify for SSDI, it will look at your work history. Unless you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes, you cannot qualify for SSDI.
Social Security refers to quarters worked as “work credits.” You earn a work credit in 2021 for each $1,470 of earnings working at a job or through self-employment and paying Social Security taxes. The earnings amount per work credit may change from one year to the next, but you can only earn up to four work credits a year.
The number of work credits you need to be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, the older you are at the onset of the disability, the more credit you need to qualify for benefits. For example, a 27-year-old worker who becomes disabled needs six credits earned over a year and a half to qualify for SSDI. If that worker does not become disabled until age 60, 38 credits will be needed to qualify for benefits.
There also are requirements for how recently credits must have been earned. This may present a problem for someone who stops working at a job subject to Social Security taxes and becomes disabled years later. The credits the person earned may not be recent enough to qualify for SSDI.
Get Help From A Disability Advocate
If you do not have enough credits to qualify for benefits through SSDI, or the credits were earned too long before you became disabled, you may be able to qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits. A free consultation and claim review with a disability expert at London Eligibility provide options and the best way to proceed to obtain benefits through the disability programs offered by the SSA.