If you are presently disabled and you are unable to work because of your disability, you may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD). Social Security Disability is a federal program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides monetary payments to beneficiaries on a monthly basis. These payments ensure that disabled persons can continue to live within safe, sanitary and decent housing as well as pay for medical costs and other expenses. 

In order to be considered for benefits, you must meet the SSA’s definition of disabled. Additionally, you must have earned enough work credits in your lifetime to qualify. By learning more about Social Security Disability, you will gain a better understanding as to whether or not you may qualify for benefits, know how to submit an application and know what to expect about any potential benefits.  

What is Social Security Disability?

The SSA provides disability benefits to Americans who cannot work due to a medical condition and meet additional qualifications. These monetary benefits allow disabled persons to retain their independence and continue to pay monthly expenses, including housing-, medical- and food-related expenses. 

Once approved for benefits, beneficiaries will continue to receive monthly payments until the beneficiary either no longer qualifies for the program or reaches retirement age. Once retirement age is reached, benefits will automatically convert to retirement benefits, however, the amount of benefits received each month will remain the same. 

How do I qualify for Social Security Disability?

To meet Social Security Disability qualifications, you must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability and you must have worked a job in which you paid Social Security taxes. Additionally, you must have worked for a certain period of time. However, if you do not meet work-related requirements, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program may still be available to you. 

How much work do you need to meet SSD criteria?

To determine eligibility for Social Security Disability, the SSA calculates the amount of “work credits” that you have earned throughout your lifetime. The amount of credits that you earn is based upon your total annual wages each year. Four credits can be earned each year and you will have earned four credits once you have earned $5,440 for the year. 

The number of work credits that required in order to be eligible for SSD is based upon the age that you developed a disability. Most Americans, must have 40 work credits (20 of which were earned within the past 10 years) in order to qualify. However, this amount is reduced for younger persons.  

Meeting Social Security Administration Definition of Disabled

The Social Security Administration only provides SSD benefits to disabled individuals who are considered totally disabled. Those with partial or short-term disability will not be paid benefits. You will be considered totally disabled by the SSA if: 

  • You are not about to do the work you did before due to your disability. 
  • The SSA makes the decision that you cannot adapt to doing other work due to your disability.  
  • Your disability is expected to persist or has lasted for a one year or is terminal. 

The Social Security Administration will use a step-by-step process when in order to determine whether or not you meet the SSA’s definition of disabled. The first step in this process is to determine whether or not you meet the definition is to examine how much work you are currently doing. If you are earning an average of more than $1,220 a month, you will generally not qualify for benefits. 

Next, the SSA will examine the severity of your condition. In order to meet the requirements for SSD benefits, your medical condition(s) must significantly restrict your capacity to do basic tasts for at least one year, including: 

  • Walking.  
  • Standing.
  • Lifting. 
  • Sitting.
  • Remembering. 

If the SSA agrees that your medical condition(s) are interfering with your ability to perform work-related activities on a daily basis, the Social Security Administration will determine whether or not, based upon your condition and the severity of your condition, you can continue to perform the work that you previously did or any other kind of work. 

When determining whether or not you can perform a type of job that you have not previously done, the SSA will consider your:

  • Age.
  • Education level.
  • Previous work experience.
  • Transferable skills that you may possess. 

If the Social Security Administration determines that you cannot perform other types of work due to your disability, you will be approved to receive SSD benefits. If the SSA determines that you can do other work or the work that you have previously performed, your SSD claim will likely be denied. 

Find Out How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

Once you become disabled, it is critical that you submit an application for benefits right away. You can submit an SSD application online, over the phone or at your local Social Security office. You might be eligible to apply for benefits online if you: 

  • Are at least 18 years of age. 
  • Are not currently receiving SSD benefits on your own Social Security record. 
  • Are unable to work due to your medical condition and your condition is expected to either result in death or last for a minimum of 12 months. 
  • Have not already been denied SSD benefits within the last 60 days. 

While not required, it is recommended that you contact your local Social Security office to schedule an appointment if you wish to apply in person. Alternatively, you can contact the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213 to schedule an appointment either in person at a local office or over the phone. 

Information About You

When submitting an application, you will need to provide the SSA with information about yourself, employment history and provide the SSA with documentation to support the information that you provide on your application. This information includes: 

  • Your date and place of birth. 
  • Your Social Security number (SSN). 
  • The name, date of birth and Social Security number of your current spouse (if applicable) as well as any former spouses.  
  • The names and date of births of any of your children under the age of 18 (if applicable). 

If you would like for any approved SSD benefits to be deposited into your account as a direct deposit, you must also provide your banking information, including your routing transit number and your personal account number. 

Information About Your Medical Condition 

As part of your application for SSD benefits, you must provide the SSA with detailed information about the medical condition or illness that is attributing to your disability. In addition to details about your condition, you must also be able to provide: 

  • The names and phone numbers for all doctors, hospitals and clinics that have treated your condition as well as the dates that you received treatment. 
  • The names and dosages of all medications that you are currently taking for your condition as well as the name of the physician that prescribed them to you. 
  • The names and dates of any medical tests that you have had as well as the name of the person who sent you for them. 

Information About Your Employment

In order to determine whether or not you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, the SSA must determine whether or not you have earned enough work credits and whether or not you can reasonably perform any previous work. Therefore, you must provide a wealth of information regarding your previous employment, including: 

  • Your annual income for the previous year. 
  • The names and address of any employers you have had in the current or previous year. 
  • A copy of your Social Security statement. 
  • A list of up to five jobs that you have had within the past 15 years before the date that you became unable to work due to your medical condition. 
  • Information, including the start and end dates, of any active U.S. military service that you served before 1968, when applicable. 
  • Information related to any benefits that you have received, filed for or intend to file for related to workers’ compensation, black lung or similar benefits. 

Learn About Documentation Requirements 

Finally, you will need to provide the SSA with several documents to show that you are eligible to receive disability benefits. These documents include: 

  • Your birth certificate. 
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or current immigration status, applicable only if you were not born within the United States. 
  • Your tax return or W-2 forms for the previous year. 
  • Any medical evidence that you may have about your condition, such as records, doctor reports or recent test results. 

If you received any type of workers’ compensation benefit, you will need to provide any documentation regarding those benefits that you have received, including award letters, pay stubs or settlement agreements.