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Social Security Disability Requirements: How to Qualify

by Mark Sander5 min read
social security disability requirements

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program was created for the benefit of disabled individuals who are no longer capable of working. But to be eligible for the benefits, a person should be able to meet the Social Security disability requirements.


Social Security has set very specific requirements and strict qualifications for disability benefits. Application may require several steps, some paperworks and hearings.


Social Security Disability Requirements: Medical Condition

To qualify for the benefits, your medical condition should be able to meet Social Security’s definition of disability. First, your disability is expected to last for a year. Also, you should be fully disabled, not partial. And your condition should be deemed severe.


The Social Security Administration (SSA) is in charge of examining your medical conditions and determining whether you are eligible to receive the benefits. You should also be able to meet the following requirements:


  • Your condition renders you incapable of doing work you did before
  • Your condition makes it impossible to engage in jobs that are less physically or mentally demanding
  • Your condition should meet the strict regulations of the Social Security impairment listing


If your condition does not meet the impairment listing’s specifications, you should be able to provide evidence that your condition is causing particular functional limitations that are keeping you from performing any work-related activities.


Meeting Social Security’s Employment Requirements

 ocial Security disability requirements also include sufficient work experience for individuals applying for the benefits. You should have worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes during your employment. The SSA will verify if you have enough work credits, which are based on your total annual salary or income from self-employment. An individual can earn up to four work credits per year.


The average amount of salary or income equivalent to a work credits may vary every year. For 2017, every $1,300 of your salary or self-employment income is equivalent to one work credit. If you earned $5,200, this means you have earned your four credits for the year.


You will need to have accumulated 40 work credits—20 of which should have been earned in the last 10 years until the year you became disabled—to qualify for the Social Security disability benefits.


Younger workers who have not been working long enough to earn working credits may still qualify. For applicants aged 24 and below, the minimum social security disability requirement is 6 working credits accumulated for three years. For individuals aged 24 to 31, the requirement is to have work credits for half the time between age 21 and the time you became disabled.


Financial Requirements

If you are working and currently earning $1,170 per month, you may not be eligible to receive benefits. Social Security considers any type of work that provide earnings of $1,170 and above per month “substantial gainful activity” or SGA. If you are gainfully employed, meaning your income surpasses the SGA level, then you are not considered disabled.


SSA allows disability beneficiaries to engage in employment to earn income and improve their way of living, provided that their total earnings will not exceed the SGA threshold. SSA will exclude income obtained from investments, interests or monetary gifts, as well as income of your spouse and other members of the family.


Read this article for hiring a social security disability attorney.