How To Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits

August 15, 2015

Many people feel, because of their medical condition, they should be entitled to Social Security benefits. Sadly, there are a number of hurdles one must overcome in order to be considered disabled by Social Security's own rules.

First, it is important that you realize there is a very specific five step sequential process Social Security uses to determine whether or not a person is disabled. So many people do not realize that even if their own doctor says they are disabled, that will usually hold very little weight with Social Security in making its determination. 

Second, you are going to have to qualify for either SSDI or SSI benefits or both.

 Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is determined by qualifying work credits. Your age has much to do with this as well as the amount of qualifying quarters you have been employed. You must also keep in mind that if you stop working for an extended amount of time, you could lose these benefits as well. You can earn up to a maximum of four credits per year and as of 2015, you must earn at least $1,220.00 per quarter and $4,880.00 to get the maximum credits for the year. So, you need to have worked long enough, given your age, and you cannot have stopped working for an extended amount of time or you will lose these credits and not qualify for SSDI.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is different. There are no work credit requirements, but there is a maximum amount of money you can earn each month and a maximum amount of nonexempt assets you may own in order to qualify. In 2015, if you are making more than $733.00 per month as an individual or $1,100.00 as a married couple, then you will not qualify for SSI benefits.

What happens is that one person in a marriage may actually be disabled but he or she does not have the work credits to qualify for SSDI. However, his or her spouse also works and he or she contributes to the family income more than $1,100.00 per month. When this happens, the disabled person will not be able to qualify for Social Security disability.

Keep in mind, there is not only just the monetary requirements for disability benefits, you must also be determined disabled under Social Security's rules as well.

Now, for the five step process:

(1) You cannot be earning what Social Security calls Substantial Gainful Activity. For 2015, that amount is $1,090.00 per month, and if you are blind, then the amount is $1,820.00. If you are earning over this per month, then you will receive a technical denial.

(2) Is your condition severe? If your medical condition significantly limits your ability to do basic work activities needed for most jobs, then your condition may be severe. Basic work activities are, for example, walking, standing, sitting, hearing, handling, understanding, and carrying out and remembering simple instructions, etc. If this is so, you then move to the next step in the process.

(3) Does you condition meet a listing? If your condition meets Social Security's medical listings of impairments, then you will automatically be approved for disability benefits. Keep in mind, this is very difficult to do, and you still have to qualify through work credits or your household income is below SSI limits.

(4) Can you do the work you used to do? If there is a chance that you can return to some kind of work you did within the last fifteen years, then you will be found not disabled. So, to easily explain, if you can go do something you used to do within the last fifteen years, then you will be denied your disability benefits.

(5) Can you adjust to some other type of work? This takes into consideration your age, education, and work skills, but if you can do something else, and Social Security feels as though you are able to do so, then you will be denied. Basically, it must be determined that you are completely unable to do any other kind of work in the economy. If you cannot, then you will be found disabled. 

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