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Am I eligible for Social Security

Qualify stamp for social security benefits

Calculate Your Disability Benefit

How do you become eligible for Social Security? Generally, the Social Security Administration (“SSA” or “the Administration”) pays benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of one or more serious medical conditions.

Benefits are generally paid as long as you are unable to perform full time work activities.  If you are under a disability when you reach normal retirement age, your disability benefits are automatically converted to retirement benefits.

Qualifying for Disability Benefits 

To qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security Administration, you have to meet both:

  • A non-medical test, as well as a
  • A medical test, which requires you to meet Social Security’s strict definition of disability.

Non Medical Test

The first question a decision maker will ask when making a disability determination is “are you working?”.  This may seem obvious, but I would be remiss not to mention it.

If you are ‘working’ a judge cannot find that you are unable to work.  Working is defined as performing work activities 40 hours a week or earning S.G.A..  This first question applies to both SSDI and SSI claims.

Eligibility for SSDI 

In order to be eligible for SSDI, you must be ‘insured’ under the SSDI program.  This happens when you have earnings in ‘covered employment’.  Employment is ‘covered’ when FICA taxes are paid on your behalf.  FICA taxes go into the Social Security system and ultimately pay for the disability and retirement programs.
Common examples of ‘non-covered employment’ would be for railroad workers or public employees.

As you pay into the system, you accumulate what are called ‘work credits’.  The amount of earnings it takes to earn a credit typically changes each year.  For example, in 2022, you get one credit for every $1,510 in earnings.  You can accumulate up to four credits each year.  

In general, you must have at least 20 credits in the 10-year period immediately before your disability began.  Another way to think about this is you need to have worked full time about 5 out of the last 10 years.  This general rule is not accurate for folks aged 30 and under as they require less credits to be eligible under this program.

Claimants who are not working and are insured under the SSDI program pass the non-medical eligibility test.  These cases are then reviewed to determine whether or not they meet the medical eligibility test.

Eligibility for SSI 

SSI is a needs-based program.  It was created to provide a benefit to needy people with disabilities.  This program has a means test, which requires a beneficiary to have less than $2,000 in assets and have less income than the SSI limit.  The SSI limit is a complicated formula.  The amount should generally be less than the maximum SSI benefit which changes yearly.

Eligible for social security benefits

 

Medical Test Questionnaire

The purpose of the disability programs are to provide a benefit to individuals who are unable to work for at least a year as a result of a medical condition.  In making this determination, a decisiomaker takes each case through a 5-step process.  This 5-step process is the same for both SSDI and SSI.  In fact many claimants meet the non-medical requirements for both programs and a judge will decide the medical portion of the claim for both SSDI and SSI at the same time.

Are you working?

As mentioned above, if you are working, a decision maker cannot find you unable to work.

Is your condition serious? 

This step is fairly obvious.  You cannot get disability for a hang nail.  Your condition must impact your ability to perform work activities.

Does your condition meet a listing?

The Administration has created a list of most medical conditions.  If your condition meets each point in the listing, then you will be found ‘disabled’.

Can you perform your past work?

If you are not found disabled at step 3, the decision maker will need to determine whether or not you can return to your past work.  If you can perform your past work, you are not disabled.

Are there any jobs that you are capable of performing?

Finally, a decisionmaker will need to decide whether or not you are capable of performing any work.  For those under the age of 50, the question is not just “can you do your past work?”.

The issue is whether or not there are any jobs that you could do 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week.  Telephone operators, ticket takers at a movie theatre and information clerks at a mall are just a few examples of jobs that do not require a lot of physical effort.

For those 50 years and older, the claimant could fail step 5, but still win due to the grid rules. 

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How Much Can I Expect In SSDI Payments?

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Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability?

Browse our SSDI resource library to find clear answers and determine if you qualify for up to $3,148/month in SSD benefits.

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May 11, 2022

Written by TC Newlin

TC is a disability litigator and one of the managing partners in the Social Security Disability Department at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin. He has had the pleasure of helping thousands of people obtain the benefits they so desperately need.

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