The Social Security Administration (SSA) has just two requirements to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), but they are strict. First, you must have a sufficient work history. Second, you must have a medical condition that qualifies you as “disabled” under the SSA’s definition.
The first part matters because only people who have paid into the SSDI fund through taxes withheld from their pay can later claim the benefit due to a disability. Then there is the matter of proving that you have become disabled due to an injury, illness or condition to the point that you can no longer earn a livable income.
Proving you have a qualifying disability
Here are the three questions SSA asks of everyone who applies for SSDI:
- Are you working? Someone who is still able to work and earn more than $1,310 monthly is unlikely to qualify as disabled.
- Is your disability severe? By “severe,” SSA means a condition that “significantly limits” your ability to do basic work-related functions, such as standing, sitting, walking, concentrating or remembering. These limitations must have lasted for at least 12 months.
- Is your condition on our list? SSA maintains a list of disabling conditions that qualify an applicant for benefits. The list is fairly long and the agency adds to it periodically. It includes things like certain cancers, respiratory disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, mental disorders and neurological disorders.
Getting approved can be a long process, but SSA uses its Compassionate Allowances program to expedite consideration for people whose conditions are likely to cause their deaths fairly soon. They also use computer screening to identify applications that are most likely to be approved.