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Who qualifies for Social Security Disability benefits?

Having a chronic medical condition is hard enough to deal with, but when it prevents you from earning a living, it can create even more anxiety as well as severe financial hardship.

In many cases, people with debilitating medical ailments are entitled to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

People of all ages are eligible for SSDI

Some people wrongly confuse SSDI benefits with the Social Security benefits they receive after retirement. Others don’t apply due to the complicated paperwork. Here are the primary requirements:

Work credits: Most workers must have at least 40 credits – 20 of which must be earned in the past 10 years – based on wages received from jobs covered under Social Security. Credits work like this:

  • One credit results for every $1,470 in wages earned
  • You earn four credits when you’ve earned $5,880
  • You can earn up to four credits per year
  • Younger workers can qualify with fewer credits

Disability requirements: SSDI rules consider someone “disabled” when:

  • They are unable to do the work they did before the medical condition surfaced
  • They cannot adjust to other types of work due to the ailment
  • The disability will last or has already lasted for at least one year, or it is expected to result in death

Five questions you must answer

To determine eligibility, the Social Security Administration (SSA) asks applicants these questions:

  1. Are you working?
  2. Is your condition severe?
  3. Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?
  4. Can you do the work you previously did?
  5. Can you do any other type of work?

Conditions that qualify

The SSA recognizes a wide variety of qualifying disabilities, including common conditions like permanent back injuries and heart disease, as well as many rare conditions. The best source to see whether your condition qualifies is the Social Security Blue Book, which you can access online.

The Blue Book divides qualifying types of disorders and diseases into 14 categories. Part A covers adult illnesses, injuries and conditions. Part B for disabled children contains those same sections and adds a child-specific category.

Don’t be discouraged from seeking benefits

While dozens of medical conditions are listed in the Blue Book, you may still qualify for benefits if your condition is not listed. Compassionate allowances can also result for those whose unlisted illness or injury still meets the disability standard.

Rejections are common for many first-time applicants, causing confusion and frustration. That’s why it’s advisable to work with an experienced lawyer who understands SSDI and the requirements for receiving benefits. Your lawyer can help you file the paperwork or handle appeals after a denial.

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