In order to qualify for disability benefits, you must follow strict guidelines outlined by the SSA. But trying to determine what does and doesn’t meet Social Security disability requirements can be both frustrating and confusing. An experienced disability lawyer can help. To learn more about how to qualify for disability benefits, as well as how to navigate the application process, contact Carmichael Law Group today.
What Are the Basic Requirements for Eligibility?
When the SSA makes a disability determination, they will look to see whether you meet three basic eligibility requirements:
- You have worked enough time at jobs covered by SSDI;
- You have a medical condition that meets the standards of disability as defined by the SSA; and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last one year or end in death.
How Long Have You Worked in a Job Covered by SSDI?
To qualify for disability benefits, you must have worked long enough, as well as recently enough, in a job that meets SSA requirements.
When you work in a qualifying job, you earn work credits. For example, in 2019, you earn a work credit for every $1,360 you earn in wages or self-employment income at a job covered by SSDI. When applying for SSDI, you need at least 40 work credits, and 20 of those should be earned within the last 10 years. Younger workers or those who are blind may not need as many credits.
Some do not earn work credits. If you are a federal employee, state or municipal government employee, or railroad worker, these jobs are not covered by SSDI. You can look at your check stubs and see if Social Security taxes are being withheld from your check to determine whether your job is covered or not.
The SSA has a handbook called the Blue Book which outlines which conditions qualify for disability benefits. Listed conditions include both physical and psychiatric conditions. But what if your condition is not included in the listing of impairments?
You may still be able to qualify for benefits if your condition is similar to a listed condition in that it prevents you from:
- Doing work you’ve done before;
- Doing or adjusting to other types of work; and
- Working for at least one year (or until your death).
How Does the SSA Make a Disability Determination?
The SSA will use a five-step evaluation process to determine whether your disability qualifies for benefits:
- Are you currently working?
- Is your condition severe enough to limit your ability to work?
- Is your condition listed in the Blue Book or similar to a listed condition?
- Can you do the work you have done before?
- Are you able to perform other kinds of work?
1: Are You Currently Working?
If you are working, even part time, and you earn more than an average of $1,220 per month (in 2019), the SSA may not consider you disabled. If you are not currently working, or you do not have substantial gainful income, your application will be sent to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) for the next step of consideration.
2: Is Your Condition Severe Enough to Limit Your Ability to Work?
Your condition must significantly limit your ability to perform basic job functions, such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, and remembering. If the limitation prevents you from working for 12 months or longer, you will be able to qualify for disability.
3: Is Your Condition Listed in the Blue Book Listings or Similar to a Listed Condition?
The Blue Book lists medical conditions that qualify for disability benefits — meaning that they are severe enough that they limit an individual from engaging in substantial gainful activity. If your condition is listed, you may be automatically approved for disability. If your condition is not listed, the SSA will need to make a further evaluation regarding your case.
4: Can You Do the Work You Have Done Before?
The SSA will consider whether or not you are able to do the work you have done in the past. If your condition does not prevent you from performing past work, you will not be found to be disabled.
5: Are You Able to Perform Other Kinds of Work?
If you’re not able to perform work you did in the past, then the SSA will determine whether there is any other work you may be able to perform despite your impairment. They will take into consideration your age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills you may have. If you can’t do other work, you will be found to be disabled. If the SSA determines you are able to do other work, your claim will be denied.
Learn More About How to Qualify for Disability Benefits
To learn more about Social Security disability requirements and how to qualify for disability benefits, speak to an attorney at Carmichael Law Group today. We can help you assess your eligibility and walk you through the application process. If your application was denied, we can also help you with an appeal.