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How to Qualify for SSDI Benefits

Social Security Disability Income benefits are designed to pay those who are disabled and unable to work for at least a year. To qualify for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), the jobs you have worked need to have paid into the Social Security fund and the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. Your medical condition(s) or disability must be an eligible disability according to the Social Security Administration office.

How Long Do You Need to Have Worked to Qualify for Social Security Disability Income Benefits?

To qualify for Social Security benefits, you need to have worked enough work credits. Work credits are credits that you earn throughout your years of employment. The amount of time you work translates into work credits. According to, you receive one work credit for every $1,410.00 with a maximum of four credits a year.

The work credits needed to qualify for Social Security disability payments will depend on how old you are when you became disabled. For example, if you become disabled and you’re between the ages of 31 and 42, then you will need 20 work credits to qualify for SSDI. The number of work credits needed increase from there until you reach the age of 62 or older, which you will need 40 work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits.

How Does Social Security Determine If You Are Disabled?

Social Security disability benefits are paid out to only those with an eligible disability that prevents them from working for at least a year. People with short-term or partial disabilities don’t qualify for SSDI and are covered by workers’ compensation, insurance policies, savings, or other monetary means.

You have a qualifying disability if:

  • Your disability falls within the qualifying medical conditions according to the Social Security Administration office
  • You are unable to perform your daily work because of your disability
  • You are unable to learn a new skill or perform another type of work because of your disability
  • Your disability will last for at least a year or will likely result in death.

When determining if you qualify for SSDI benefit, your application administration might ask you the following.

1. Are you working?
Workers who average more than $1,260 a month would typically not qualify for Social Security disability payments. Social Security will send your completed application to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office, which will make a determination based on the answers to the next four questions.

2. Is your condition severe?
To qualify for disability benefits through Social Security, your medical condition must severely limit your ability to perform basic work functions like standing, lifting, walking, and sitting for at least one year

3. Is the condition on the list of disabling conditions?
Social Security has a list of medical conditions that are considered disabling to the point of preventing you from completing “substantial gainful activity.” If your condition is not on their list, they will decide if your condition is severe enough to warrant benefits.

4. Are you able to perform your previous job?
A determination will be made if your medical condition(s) prevent you from performing the tasks of your past work.

5. Can you perform any other kind of work?
Factors to consider when determining if you can do other kinds of work with your medical condition include your age, education, prior working experiences, and any skills you have acquired that may be useful for other positions.

Special Circumstances

There are certain situations that require special attention when determining if you qualify for Social Security disability benefits, including:

  • People who are blind or have low vision
  • Widow or widower of disabled worker
  • Disabled children
  • Wounded Warriors and veterans

How Are Disability Payments Distributed?

Disability benefits are typically distributed until you are able to join the workforce. Special rules called “work incentives,” provide benefits and health care coverage for those who need help making the transition to work.

For those who are still getting Social Security disability payments upon reaching full retirement age, your benefits will convert to retirement benefits, with the monthly payment amounts to stay the same.

Need Help Applying for Social Security Benefits?

The application process for Social Security disability payments can be complicated and confusing. If you need help, complete the form to be connected with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney. An attorney has experience with the application process and can guide you through the process.

Complete the Form for a Free Consultation With a Social Security Disability Attorney

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