The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers retirement payments under the Social Security system. However, the SSA also administers disability benefits that are available under the Social Security system.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are the two disability benefit programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. Each program has specific requirements for eligibility; however, both programs require recipients to meet the definition of “disabled” set by the SSA.
What Does It Mean to Be Disabled for Social Security Disability?
The SSA has a very clearly defined definition of disability. To receive Social Security disability benefits, you must be disabled by meeting each of the following elements:
- You are unable to perform the work that you did before your disability;
- You cannot perform other work because of your disability; and,
- Your disability has lasted or will last for at least 12 months or is expected to result in death.
To help determine if your disability meets the above requirements, the SSA has a Listing of Impairments, commonly referred to as the “Blue Book,” for adults and children. The guideline is used to help judge if a disability meets the definition of disabled for SS disability benefits. Other information may also be used such as age, education level, work experience, and current health condition.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
In addition to meeting the definition of disabled, you must also meet the earning requirements for SSDI. The first test is based on your recent work history. Depending on your age, you must have been working a certain period before your disability. For example, if you are under the age of 24 at the time you become disabled, you must have worked at least a year and a half in the three years before you became disabled. However, if you are over the age of 31, you must have worked for five years out of the 10-year period before becoming disabled.
If you meet the recent work test, SSA will evaluate your work credits. Work credits are based on how much you earn each year. For instance, you earn one work credit for every $1,300 earned in 2017 up to four credits for the entire year. The amount needed to earn a work credit increases slightly each year. The general rule for SSDI is 40 work credits during your lifetime with 20 work credits earned during the past 10 years. However, the number of credits are adjusted according to your age; therefore, you can qualify for SSDI with less than 40 work credits.
Supplement Security Income (SSI)
SSI is the other disability program administered by the SSA. In addition to being disabled, blind, or over the age of 65, a person must have limited income and limited resources to qualify for SSI. SSI is an income based disability program. In addition to having limited assets/resources, you cannot earn or be able to earn over a certain amount each month to qualify for SSI.
For 2017, the amount is $1,170 per month. Therefore, if the SSA determines you are able to perform a substantial gainful activity (SGA) that would result in earnings of $1,170 per month, you do not qualify for SSI. This income requirement does not apply to applicants who are blind.
Call an Experienced Social Security Lawyer for Help
Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be a complex process depending on your situation. Many applicants are denied and must appeal the decision. An appeal must be filed within a very short time after being denied, or you must begin the process again. Consulting an experienced Social Security lawyer can save you time and stress when applying for SS disability benefits.