Social Security Disability Benefits—A Safety Net When You Can’t Work
If you have been injured or have an illness that prevents you from working, you may be eligible for benefits from the Social Security Administration. There are specific guidelines, however, governing whether or not you qualify. Here are the basic requirements.
Qualifying for SSDI Payments
Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) payments are made only when the Social Security Administration has determined that you have a total disability. The Social Security rules define disability based on your ability to work. You will be considered disabled if you meet all three of the following conditions:
- You are unable to perform the work you were doing before your injury or illness
- SSA determines that you cannot adjust to the work because of your medical condition
- Your disability or illness has lasted or is expected to last at least one year, or to result in death
The Social Security Administration uses a five-step process to determine whether you are disabled.
- First, SSA will ask whether you are currently working. If you are, and your income averages more than $1040 per month, you will not be considered disabled.
- If you are not working, SSA will ask if your condition is “severe,” i.e., does it interfere with basic work-related activities. If not, you will not qualify for disability payments.
- If your illness or injury interferes with basic work-related activities, SSA will compare your specific conditions with its list of medical conditions that are automatically considered to be severe. If your condition is not on the list, you may still qualify, but only if SSA determines that it is of equal severity with a condition that is on the list.
- If your condition is on the list, you will be considered disabled. If not, SSA must determine whether it interferes with the work you did previously. If not, you will not be eligible for SSDI benefits.
- If your condition is determined by SSA to interfere with your previous work, SSA will inquire whether you are able to adjust to other work. This determination will be based on your age and health, your education and past work experience, and any transferable skills you have. If you cannot adjust to any other work, you will qualify for SSDI benefits.
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