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How to Know Whether You Qualify for Social Security Disability

  • If you are unable to work because of a chronic health condition, you may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. However, qualifying for these benefits is not easy. Below is some basic information about this program, the qualification requirements and the application process.

    What Is Social Security Disability?


    The Social Security disability insurance program is designed to pay benefits to disabled individuals and their family members when a disability prevents the individual from working. These benefits are intended to replace the wages the individual would have earned if he or she were not disabled. However, to qualify for these benefits, you must be considered "insured" by the Social Security disability insurance program.

    Qualifications for Social Security Disability


    To receive Social Security disability benefits, you must meet several requirements:


    • You must have worked in jobs covered by Social Security.


    To qualify for Social Security disability, you must have earned at least a specific number of work credits by working in a job that was covered by this program. You can earn a maximum of four credits during each year you work. The amount of earnings needed to receive a work credit changes each year. Most applicants will need a minimum of 40 work credits to qualify for Social Security disability, and at least 20 of these credits must have been earned in the ten years before the disability began. However, if you are a younger individual, you may not need as many credits to qualify.

    • You must meet Social Security's definition of disability.


    To be considered disabled by Social Security, you must have a condition that prevents you from doing the job you did before. Your condition must also prevent you from doing any other type of work, and it must be expected to last for at least one year or end in your death. This definition of disability is strict and difficult to meet. Social Security publishes specific requirements for most types of impairments.

    Conditions that may qualify you for Social Security disability benefits include:

    • Cancer
    • Certain blood disorders
    • Mental disorders, such as severe anxiety or depression
    • Neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.
    • Respiratory disorders, such as COPD
    • Musculoskeletal disorders, such as chronic back pain
    • Immune system disorders, such as HIV or AIDS
    • Vision or hearing loss.

    This is not a comprehensive list, and other disorders may also qualify you for benefits.

    If you qualify for Social Security disability, the amount of benefits you receive will depend on your lifetime average earnings. You will begin receiving payments during the sixth month after your disability began. If more than six months has already passed since the date you became disabled, you will be eligible to receive back pay. After receiving disability benefits for two years, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare, which will cover some of your healthcare expenses.

    Applying for Benefits


    If you think you may qualify for Social Security disability insurance benefits, the first thing you need to do is complete and submit an application. In many cases, an applicant’s initial application will be denied. If this occurs, you can appeal the Social Security Administration’s decision. If your appeal is denied, you can go to court and present evidence in front of a judge.

    Because the process of applying for disability benefits can be lengthy and complicated, consulting a Social Security disability attorney is highly recommended. An attorney will be able to make sure that you have completed all paperwork properly and that you have submitted the evidence you need to qualify. If you must go to court, your attorney can also help you prepare and present your case.