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Applying For Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits: Initial Eligibility Criteria

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is a federal insurance program funded by payroll deductions. If you are insured and become disabled, you may qualify to receive benefits to assist you with your finances when you are no longer able to work. You must meet certain eligibility criteria to apply.

Eligibility Requirements

  1. Your disability must already have lasted for a year or be expected to last for at least 12 months. A terminal medical illness also may qualify you.

  2. You must have been self-employed or worked jobs where you and your employers paid in social security disability insurance. Generally, anyone who works in the U.S. is required to pay social security and Medicare taxes, which are either deducted from your wages or paid in self-employment tax.

  3. You must have been self-employed or worked for other employers long enough to qualify for disability benefits. The number of work credits you need to qualify for social security disability benefits depends on how old you were when you became disabled.

    Although most individuals need 40 credits to qualify, younger workers with fewer credits can sometimes qualify for benefits. You never need more than 40 credits to apply, but if you need the full 40 credits, you must have earned 20 of them in the last 10 years of employment, ending with the year in which your disability began.

    The amount of wages or self-employment income you must earn to earn one credit changes each year. In 2016, an individual is required to earn $1,260 for each credit earned. Since you can earn up to a maximum of four credits a year, you must earn at least $5,040 in wages or self-employment income to get the four credits.

  4. You must have a physical or mental condition that meets the Social Security Administration's definition of disability that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful employment.

Receiving Monthly Benefit Payments

If you are approved for SSDI benefits, the amount of the benefits you will receive each month is based on your lifetime earnings record – earnings on which you paid social security taxes – before you were no longer able to work due to a disability. After qualifying for benefits, if your disability continues, you may be eligible to receive disability benefits until you reach full retirement age.

Once you reach full retirement age – which varies based on what year you were born – your benefits will be paid through SSA's retirement program rather than the SSDI program. Your benefits will not be delayed during the changeover process, nor will your monthly benefit payment amount change, but you cannot receive both disability and retirement benefits from Social Security.

For more information on how to receive Social Security Disability, contact a company like Waycaster & Allred