Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

When you work and pay Social Security taxes out of your paycheck, you earn “credits” from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA issues credits based on your earnings, and the amount of credits you earn over time determines if you can receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. The number of credits you need to qualify for disability benefits varies based on your age and when you became disabled.

At Fields Law Firm, our Social Security Disability lawyers are here to answer your questions about qualifying for disability benefits.

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Social Security Credits and Disability Benefits

The SSA assigns you credits based on how much you earn while working, with a maximum of four credits earned per year. The number of credits you need to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits varies based on your age and how long you’ve worked.

The amount of credits you must earn to qualify for benefits depends on your age:

  • Younger Than Age 24
    If you’re under age 24, to qualify for disability benefits you typically must have worked at least 1.5 years in the three years before you became disabled.
  • Between Ages 24 – 30
    To be approved for disability benefits, you generally need to have earned credits for at least half the time between age 21 and the time you became disabled.
  • Age 31 and Older
    You need to have earned at least 20 credits in the 10 years before you became disabled to get disability benefits. The exact number of credits you need to qualify for benefits increases until age 62.

Social Security Disability benefits exist to help injured workers pay for their living expenses when they become disabled. Contact Fields Law if you need help determining whether or not you qualify for disability benefits. No matter where you are in the process, we can help. We have years of experience, and we can answer all of your questions and explain your rights.

Tips For Getting Your Disability Claim Approved

Getting your claim approved for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can take time, and in many cases, it can require more than one try. The Social Security Administration (SSA) denies more than half of all initial applications for SSD benefits, but there are steps you can take to increase your chances of getting your application approved.
Follow these tips to increase your chances of getting your application for disability benefits approved:

1. See your doctor on a regular basis.
Getting regular medical treatment helps your physician fill out paperwork that the SSA uses to determine your disability status. A list of your past appointments can also serve as evidence you’re suffering from a serious condition.

2. Document your medical condition.
Keep a journal documenting the ways your condition affects you on a daily basis. Be sure to document the following:

  • Things you can no longer do because of your condition.
  • Times and dates of events, such as seizures or blackouts, related to your condition.
  • Side effects of medications you’re taking.

Keeping track of these factors can prove the severity of your medical condition to the SSA, and it can help your doctors and lawyers prepare your application for Social Security Disability benefits.

3. Get a Social Security Disability lawyer.
At Fields Law, we know how to build successful disability claims. Whether you’ve already been denied and need help with an appeal or you’re applying for benefits for the first time, our Social Security lawyers are here to help you get the benefits you need.

You don’t have to apply for disability benefits without help. At Fields Law Firm, it’s our job to help you get the compensation you need to get medical treatment and support your family.

Disability Qualifications

Social Security has special rules to determine if a person is “disabled” under the federal program. Assuming a person is eligible for disability benefits, they still must be “disabled” under Social Security’s rules. These are very strict rules that must be met in order to qualify for disability benefits. However, these rules change for blind people. If you are blind, not all of these rules will apply.

Social Security uses a 5-step process in determining if a person is disabled under their rules.

1. Are you working?
If you are currently working and earning $1,550 or more per month, then you do not qualify for disability benefits. If you are not working, or not earning $1,550 per month or more, then Social Security will look at your medical conditions.

2. Is your medical condition severe enough?
Your medical condition must be severe enough to significantly limit your ability to do basic activities such as walking, sitting, and concentrating. If you can use your hands and arms to complete basic tasks, and can remember simple instructions, you will not be considered disabled under Social Security’s rules.

3. Is your medical condition listed on Social Security’s Listing of Impairments?
Social Security has a “List of Impairments” that lists certain medical conditions that are considered so severe that they automatically qualify a person for Social Security Disability. If your medical conditions are on the list, then you will qualify for disability benefits but may still be denied benefits. If your medical conditions are not on this list, then Social Security will look to see if they are as severe as conditions that are on the list.

4. Can you perform any of the work you did in the past?
Social Security considers if you are able to do work that you have done in the past. If so, you will not be granted disability benefits. Social Security looks at each job you have had over your lifetime and determines if you can do one of these jobs given your medical conditions.

5. Can you perform any other type of work?
If you cannot do the work you did in the past, Social Security will look to see if there are other jobs that you would be able to do considering your medical condition, age, education, and past work experience. If you are capable of working one of these jobs, then Social Security will determine that you are not qualified to receive disability benefits.

Disability Work Credits

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must have earned enough “credits.” While working, people pay Social Security taxes. These taxes amount to “credits” that qualifies people to receive benefits if they become disabled.

Social Security work credits are based on total yearly wages. They are also based on reported self-employment income. People can earn as much as four credits per year while working.

There is no single number of credits for everyone to qualify for disability benefits. This is because the number of work credits needed to qualify for disability benefits depends on the age in which a person becomes disabled.

In general terms, people need to have 40 credits, and to have earned 20 of those credits in the immediate 10 years before they became disabled. However, some young workers may qualify for disability benefits with fewer credits.

Recent Work
The work credits needed to qualify for disability benefits must have been earned in the recent years before a person became disabled. This is called the “recent work test.” People who become disabled at age 31 or older need to have worked 5 out of the 10 years before they became disabled. People who become disabled between ages 25 and 30 need to have worked half the time between age 21 and your age at the time of their disability. And, if a person becomes disabled when they are 24-years-old or before, then they need 1 ½ years of work in the three years before they became disabled.

Social Security Statement
Your Social Security Statement shows whether you have earned enough work credits to qualify for disability benefits. This only shows if you met the work requirement at the time the statement was prepared, though, so if you stop working, you may not continue to meet the work credit requirement in the future. You should receive a copy of your Social Security Statements (online only) once per year after you sign up for an account.