Social Security Disability Requirements
Social Security Disability Insurance -- or SSDI for short -- is a federally funded social welfare program that provides supplement income to individuals with disabilities that impede their ability to work. Social Security Disability offers both short-term and long-term benefits for qualifying U.S. residents. If you meet the requirements for Social Security Disability, you can apply for benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA) to get started.
To qualify for Social Security Disability, you must be at least 18 years of age and under the age of 65. Disabled seniors who are 65 years of age or older should instead consider Social Security retirement benefits. If you are under the age of 22, and you have never worked, the Social Security Administration may waive the age requirement for you if you meet all of the other requirements and your parents meet the work-credit requirement. Children with a congenital disability, or who became disabled during birth, may also qualify for Social Security Disability if the parents meet the work-credit requirement.
The SSA only extends Social Security Disability benefits to qualifying individuals with a “severe” disability or medical condition. Your disability must prevent you from seeking substantial gainful employment, or SGA. Some mental and psychological impairments are covered, provided your impairment genuinely impedes your ability to work. You can review the Social Security Administration’s List of Impairments to determine if your condition is covered. If not, you are likely not eligible for Social Security Disability.
Your doctor must certify that you are too disabled to work, and you must turn over a copy of your medical records during, after and immediately preceding your disability or condition for the SSA’s review.
The SSA permits Social Security Disability recipients to seek new employment or retain a current job, provided they do not earn more than the monthly limit. The SSA reviews and revises the income limitation every year to account for inflation; as of 2010, recipients could earn up to $1,000 each month ($1,640 if you are legally blind) and continue receiving Social Security Disability benefits. If you are currently working, or you are actively looking for a new job, review the current income limitations to see how much you can earn without affecting the status of your Social Security Disability benefits.
In addition to income limits, the Social Security Administration also imposes a limit on recipient’s assets. Assets are separate from income, and include things like investments, trust funds and savings account from which you draw revenue. If you have any assets, the combined amount of all assets cannot exceed $2,000. If you do have assets totaling more than $2,000, the SSA requires you to use your own income that you receive from your assets to pay for your basic needs until you drop below the $2,000 limitation. As soon as this happens, you become eligible and you can then apply for Social Security Disability.
Work Credit Requirements
The work-credit requirement is used to determine whether you contributed enough to the Social Security program through income taxes while you were working. To meet the work-credit requirement, you generally must have worked full-time for five of the last ten years. If you are less than 22 years of age, or you were born with your disability, you can instead draw from your parents’ work credits if they work without disrupting or depleting their entitlement to Social Security benefits.