There are many misconceptions surrounding qualifications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). It’s often confused with Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is an entirely different program that provides benefits to certain people. Some people falsely believe that they don’t qualify for benefits, which results in not receiving assistance that they deserve. Because there are so many questions about SSDI qualifications, we’re here to set the record straight so you can determine whether or not you meet the qualifications to receive benefits. 

SSDI Eligibility Requirements

Work Credits

Unlike SSI, SSDI eligibility is partially based on your work history. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses your income to determine how many work credits you have. The number of credits you need depends on your current age and your age when the disability began. For example, a 32-year-old must have earned at least 20 credits in the 10 years prior to the beginning of his or her disability with at least five years worked in that time. Compare that to a 58-year old who requires 36 credits and 9 years worked. 

Credits are calculated by earnings, which typically changes every year; in 2024, one credit is issued per $1,730 of income with a maximum of four credits earned per year. 

Qualifying Disability

SSDI is unique in that it only pays for total disability. There is no partial or short-term SSDI, and in order to be eligible, you must meet the SSA’s definition of a disability. In order to be classified as an SSA disability, your condition must meet the following requirements.

  • Your condition prevents you from doing the work you did previously or other types of work.
  • Your condition prevents you from working at the sustainable gainful activity level.
  • Your condition has lasted or is expected to last at least a full year or result in death.

When reviewing your application, the Social Security Administration will ask certain questions about how your condition relates to your ability or inability to work. The first question they’ll ask is: are you working? If you are currently able to work, that doesn’t mean that you won’t qualify for SSDI. The SSA offers work incentives to those who earn an income that isn’t enough to be considered sustainable. You can still earn benefits while you work as long as you meet other requirements. If your average monthly income is under $1,550 or $2,590 if you’re blind, you can still qualify to receive benefits.  

You’ll also be asked about the severity of your condition. If your condition is severe enough to impact your activity for at least 12 months, your condition should qualify. Next, they’ll ask if your condition is on the SSA’s list of disabling conditions. Keep in mind that having a condition doesn’t automatically qualify you; likewise, not having a condition on the list doesn’t disqualify you from SSDI eligibility. Finally, you’ll be asked if you can do the same work as you did before or a different type of work. 

Learn More About SSDI From a Disability Attorney

Everyone’s situation is different. If you still have questions about your SSDI eligibility or would like professional help with your application, you can contact the American Disability Action Group. Our law team helps people across the United States with successfully applying for disability benefits, and we’re ready to help you. Contact us today to schedule a free no-obligation consultation with a disability lawyer.