Am I Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?

There are two types of criteria you must meet to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits: medical and economic. The medical criteria is the same regardless of what type of benefits you are looking for, while the economic benefits depend on whether you are seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Medical Requirements for SSDI/SSI

To be eligible for SSDI or SSI, you must have a disability that makes you unable to earn sufficient income to support yourself, or which makes it difficult for you to accomplish daily tasks.

  • Your disability can be either a physical or psychological condition, but it must be diagnosed and treated by a licensed medical professional, with medical records to back it up.
  • You must adhere to any treatment plan prescribed to you by your doctor. This includes taking medication, attending therapy, or performing whatever other steps are necessary to treat your condition.
  • After you apply for SSDI or SSI, you must be evaluated by Disability Determination Services (DDS) to determine the nature and extent of your disability.

Economic Requirements for SSDI

To economically qualify for SSDI benefits, you must accumulate a certain number of “work credits” by engaging in a certain amount of paid work and paying Social Security taxes. You can accumulate up to four work credits per year, one for each economic quarter, but you can make all of the money you need for those four work credits during a single quarter.

  • If you are under the age of 24, you can qualify for SSDI with only six work credits from the three years prior to claiming disability.
  • If you are between the ages of 24 and 31, you can qualify for SSDI if you have work credits equal to half the time between when you turned 21 and when you applied for disability benefits.
  • If you are 31 or older, you need 40 work credits, 20 of which must have been earned in the 10 years prior to claiming disability.

Economic Requirements for SSI

To economically qualify for SSI, you must make below a certain income level, which is adjusted each year. However, not all income is “counted” towards whether you qualify for SSI. Types of income that are excluded from SSI income calculations are as follows:

  • The first $20 per month
  • Income set aside or being used to pursue a plan for achieving self-support by a disabled or blind individual
  • State or local assistance based on need that is wholly funded by state or local governments
  • Rent subsidies under Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits
  • The first $60 of infrequent or irregularly received income in a quarter
  • The first $65 per month and any unused portion of the $20 unearned income exclusion, plus one-half of the remainder
  • Impairment-related work expenses of the disabled and work expenses of the blind
  • Income set aside or being used to pursue a plan for achieving self-support by a disabled or blind individual
  • The first $30 of infrequent or irregularly received income in a quarter

If you are unsure how to calculate your income to determine if you qualify for SSI benefits, you may wish to speak to a lawyer with experience handling Social Security disability claims, who can help you with your case.

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(Opposite Social Security Office)

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