SSDI: How Do I Qualify?

How do you know if you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)? Our Summit Disability Law Group has compiled a quick checklist below, provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that will help you to more easily navigate through the requirements necessary in order to qualify.


Is My Work Experience Covered By Social Security?

In order to qualify for SSDI, you must have worked a job that was covered by Social Security. A job like this means that you have worked enough of your life prior to your injury or disability in order to have gained enough credits to qualify for benefits. Credits represent a certain dollar amount that you receive per year in wages at your job. This changes every year. For example, in 2014, 1 credit is worth about $1200. You can receive a maximum of 4 credits per year.  For example, if you are over 62, Social Security requires that you have earned about 40 credits, half of which must come from about 10 years before your disability. The amount of credits you earn depends on your wages. The rules change depending on the age that you become disabled. The following explains the amount of credits required per age-range:

24 or under: you can qualify with only 6 credits acquired in the 3 years ending when you are disabled.

24–31: You may qualify if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 27, you would need credit for 3 years of work (12 credits) out of the past 6 years (between ages 21 and 27).

31 or older: You will need to acquire at least 20 credits. For a full chart, please visit here.

If you are blind, you may be considered an exception to the above credit rules.

Is My Physical or Mental Condition Covered by Social Security?

After you have worked for a set period of time, Social Security then must determine if you truly are unable to work any longer. The SSa has devised a method for determining whether your physical or mental condition disqualifies you from the workplace and thereby qualifies you for social security. In other words, your current condition must be considered by Social Security to be a “disability,” a condition that totally and completely prevents you from being able to work. Social Security will not pay for partial or short-term disability. Therefore, you qualify if:

  • You cannot work as you did previously
  • You cannot take on other work in the future
  • Your disability has been determined to last at least a year or will result in death.
  • All of these conditions are to be determined by the SSA

Social Security will not cover partial disability because it assumes that the partially-disabled or short-term disabled are receiving compensation through Workers’ Comp, insurance, or through the individual’s personal savings or investments.

Special Circumstances

Because there are so many unique circumstances to consider, the SSA has provided exceptions to the rules. If you meet the following criteria, you may qualify for SSA despite not meeting all of the aforementioned requirements:

  • Blindness or Low-vision
  • Worker’s Widow/Widower
  • Disabled Child
  • Wounded Warrior

For more information on special situations, please visit the SSA’s Disability Planner: Special Situations page.