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How do I qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance?

May 17, 2022 |

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are complicated. They are hard to attain, require constant medical follow-up and generate a mountain of paperwork. However, for those who need SSDI, it can be a financial lifeline.

The basics

Essentially, to qualify for SSDI, applicants must have worked for a covered job for a minimum amount of time, and then, have a qualifying disability (medical condition).

If the applicant has both, Social Security will pay monthly benefits for at least a year or more. Those benefits will continue until the person can work again, and in some cases, one can still keep benefits during the transition back to work. Once the recipient reaches full retirement age, the SSDI benefits convert to retirement benefits, but the benefit amount does not change when it converts.

How much work do I need?

The amount of required time is determined by SS work credits, which are based on your yearly wages, including both employment wages and self-employment income. Each year, everyone can earn up to four credits, but the amount needed for a work credit changes every year.

This year, one credit is awarded for every $1,510 up to four at $6,040. The number of work credits needed depends on the applicant’s age, but normally, the requirement is 40 work credits, which must include 20 credits earned within the prior 10 years. However, for younger workers, that work credit requirement would be less.

What qualifies as a disability?

SS’s definition of a disability only qualifies for benefits when there is a total disability. This medical condition must be such that one cannot work or engage in substantial gainful activities because of that condition.

This means that the applicant cannot do the work they did before the injury or condition, even with workplace adjustments. The condition must be expected to last for at least one year, has already lasted for a year and is expected to continue or will likely cause the applicant’s death.


SSDI applicants from Cleveland, Ohio, can reach out to the Social Security Administration for help. They have starter kits to help, and of course, should they not be successful or be confused about the process, there are attorneys available to help as well.