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Do You Meet Social Security Disability Requirements?

By   /  October 24, 2016  /  25 Comments

Learn here if you meet Social Security Disability’s strict requirements to collect a monthly check. These four questions answer who qualifies and who doesn’t.

meet-ssd-requirements Whether you’re applying for SSD benefits for yourself or others, it’s extremely important to fill out the application form completely, correctly, without omissions, and with the required paperwork enclosed along with it. Having your initial application denied can make you so discouraged that you’ll give up on SSD and miss out on the benefits you deserve. This section and the next may help you to avoid an immediate denial or needless delays.

The application process is complex and can take much time and effort. But several million Americans go through it each year and, if successful, are very glad they did. After all, the average benefit in 2016 for a disabled worker was $1,166.46 per month — $13,997 per year — so it’s well worth applying if a disability keeps you from earning a decent income.

Before you begin filling out the SSD application form, answer these 4 questions the SSA will use to decide whether you qualify to apply:

  1. Are you under the age of 65?
  • If you answered “No,” you are not eligible for SSD benefits. Do not apply.
    (But you may be eligible for SSA retirement benefits or SSI benefits.)
  • If you answered “Yes,” then proceed to the next question.
  1. Do you have a complete disability that has lasted, or is expected to last, 12 months or more, or result in death?
  • If you answered “No,” you are not eligible for SSD benefits. Do not apply.
  • If you answered “Yes,” then proceed to the next question.
  1. Does your physical or mental condition prevent you from engaging in any “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA) to earn an income?

To answer, you need to know what the SSA currently calls “substantial.” For 2017, if you are blind (as per the SSA’s definition), you can’t earn more than $1,950 a month; if not blind, the limit is $1,170 per month. If your SGA is slightly higher, consider reducing it (in ways allowed by the SSA) in order to become eligible. Passive income (from investments, royalties, etc.) has no effect on SSD eligibility.

  • If you answered “No,” you are not eligible for SSD benefits. Do not apply.
  • If you answered “Yes,” then proceed to the next question.
  1. Have you accumulated at least 20 Social Security (work) credits in the last 10 years prior to the onset of your disability, and at least one additional credit for every year by which your age exceeds 42?

Normally, workers who pay into the Social Security system (via FICA payroll contributions or self-employment tax) receive four credits per full or partial year. Like insurance premiums, you must pay in to receive benefits.

  • If you answered “No,” you are not eligible for SSD benefits. Do not apply.
  • If you answered “Yes,” then proceed to the Listing of Impairments.

Please Note: The work requirement (above) is waived if you can prove you became disabled at or before age 22, since you may be allowed to collect SSD benefits based on the work credits of your parent(s). Their own benefits would not be affected.

IN ADDITION: To be eligible for SSD benefits, your impairment must meet or equal the severity of those in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments.

This listing describes, for each major body system, impairments considered severe enough to prevent an applicant from doing any gainful activity. Most of the listed impairments are permanent or expected to result in death, but for some the listing includes a specific statement of duration.

Part A lists impairments pertaining to adults age 18 or over and, in some cases, for children, too. These impairments or conditions are:

  • Musculoskeletal System
  • Special Senses and Speech
  • Respiratory System
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Digestive System
  • Genitourinary Impairments
  • Hematological Disorders
  • Skin Disorders
  • Endocrine Disorders
  • Impairments That Affect Multiple Body Systems
  • Neurological
  • Mental Disorders
  • Malignant Neoplastic Diseases
  • Immune System Disorders

Part B lists impairments pertaining to children. Medical evidence — signs, symptoms and/or laboratory findings — is required by the SSA to document any disability claim. Pain or other symptoms are also considered, but are not usually enough to substantiate a claim. These impairments and conditions are:

  • All those listed in Part A (above) plus Growth Impairment.

Medical evidence proving that you suffer from one or more of the above disorders is a major requirement for SSD eligibility.

Applicants are responsible for providing medical evidence proving they have a listed impairment and what its severity is. However, if you need assistance in obtaining this data, the SSA — with your permission (provide your doctors’ names and contact information, the dates you were examined or treated, etc.) — can help request the medical reports required. Acceptable medical sources include licensed physicians, psychologists, optometrists, podiatrists…whatever type of medical professional is relevant.

The next steps in applying for SSD benefits are discussed in our article How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits.

Do You Meet Social Security Disability Requirements?
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  • Published: 2 months ago on October 24, 2016
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  • Last Modified: December 5, 2016 @ 8:10 pm
  • Filed Under: SSD Basic Facts

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  • Lindsay

    I am 28 years old at the moment, I will turn 29 in Jan. 2017. I worked full time my junior and senior year of HS graduated in 2006 and worked full time at the same job for years after that (I did quit then I was rehired then I was fired then rehired…long story that ended in the store going out of business) after that I have had jobs here and there, never making much money. I was sexually molested as a child which has no doubt significantly contributed to my depression and anxiety. I started see a psychiatrist in 2011 and still see him to this day. He has diagnosed me with Manic depression, severe anxiety with panic disorder, coarse or familial tremor, and ADD. I am currently on medication for my anxiety, ADD and coarse tremor. He (my psychiatrist) has tried many different antidepressants type medications to treat my mania and depression, but none have ever helped only seemed to make things either the same or worse. Two years ago I finally told my family that I had been molested as a child and my family (not immediate) disowned me and there has been an ongoing court case yet nothing has come of it thus far. That only once again worsened my depression and anxiety. Once again me and Dr. decided to try another antidepressant. I understand they are not happy pills and nothing works right away so although I had slumped into the most depressed, hopeless, withdrawn state I had ever been in I thought to myself “Give it a chance!). Then came the worst day of my life, May of this year 2016 me and my loving fiance had not been getting along well due to my mania, anxiety, and EXTREME depression, so one fateful day in May he had brought up the idea that maybe this isnt going to work out (he has a daughter and didnt want anything to affect her) no yelling or fighting I just walked inside the house opened a drawer in the kitchen and grabbed the first sharp knife I saw…I was going to slit my wrists…at that moment my fiance walked in and took the knife out of my hand and called 911 for help. No ambulance came, only police, I sat in Jail for three days naked with what was like a horse blanket falling off of me as I was shackled and strapped into a chair where I was made to urinate on myself then sit in it, no water, no anxiety meds, the restraints were extremely painful to the point that for weeks afterwards I was positive some of the bones in my hand were broken. I am now being charged with a criminal class B misdemeanor. I need to work! I try! all I have now is court and fines and the utter feeling of hopelessness, most days I have suicidal thoughts, not because of court, I dont know why, I cry every day and go to bed hoping I will never wake up. I do wake up and I want to be a productive member of society but I feel as if my brain just wasnt meant for this life…I have never really thought about disability because i felt like it would be a cop out but the truth is I cant function in my everyday life, I am never stable, I am now terrified of any more antidepressants. I guess I dont know where to start, and to be honest this whole process already is making me panic cry and want to curl into the fetal position and give up. I dont know where to start or what to do. Any help or guidance at this point would mean the world to me. Thank You

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Lindsay,

      I suggest that you apply for Social Security Disability (SSD aka SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits. You can start the SSD claim online at http://www.ssa. gov and the SSI claim by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. Be sure to talk with your public defender defense attorney about what really happened when you were arrested, that you were attempting suicide not threatening anyone else. Also, you might try talking with your psychiatrist about whether supportive therapy in addition to medications might help you.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Terry

    Hi Kay. I’ve been recently following this site and can appreciate all the expertise you have on the subjects. I filed for ssdi/ssi in August/2016. Arthritis in shoulder and high blood pressure. 57 years old. DDS has had my case since October/2016 and they sent me daily activity forms to fill out which I immediately filled out and returned to them. I called to check on my case and they stated I should check back with them in Feb/2017. What do you think would take them so long to render a decision? Thanks in advance for your help.

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Terry,

      New claims take from two to five months to process. I think they were giving you the five-month time frame. However, it might not take that long.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • pam

    i have a learning disability and reading problem is that a disability that ssi will help with

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Pam,

      If your learning disability is severe enough that you are unable to work because of it, you could qualify for benefits. If you are unsure about your ability to work, you might contact your state’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation or a non-profit such as Goodwill that helps people with employment challenges. They may evaluate to see whether there is an occupation that is right for you.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Elizabeth

    Hello,

    I have a client searching how to obtain SSI. She has already been denied once and was told to get an attorney. Is this really necessary?She was involved in two car accidents. One accident affected her back and the second accident has injured her knee. What are her options?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Elizabeth,

      Given that your client was unable to file a successful claim on her own, hiring an experienced Social Security attorney is good advice. I suggest that she also request a copy of her claim file so she and the attorney can see the exact reasons for the denial and learn what evidence was in file.

      When you hire a Social Security attorney, you do not have to pay any legal fees up front, and you will pay attorney fees only if you are approved for benefits. Social Security law sets the amount your attorney can charge and the Social Security Administration pays the attorney directly from the retroactive award before they send your back pay to you.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

    • Sandy

      Im trying to find out if my husband and I have a business LLC, and its set up as a partnership with 50 % of the profits paid out to me even though I do NOT materially partake in the business ( because I am now disabled ) can I still get SSDI and still stay as a 50 % partner in the business and claim approx 55,000 in income ??

      • Kay Derochie

        Dear Sandy,

        If you are no longer working in the business–performing no services at all–it should be fairly easy to establish that you are not performing substantial gainful activity. Depending on how you have the LLC set up in relationship to the type of income you get from it, you might have to make some changes in how the business is set up. I suggest that if you are no longer working in the business that you file your claim and meet with your tax accountant to go over what changes are needed, if any, for your payout from the business to be passive income.

        Sincerely,
        Kay

  • Rebecca Stahulak

    Hi Kay,

    As a little background I am a legal secretary by trade and have been one since 19 years of age. I am now 56. In April of this year I fell and shattered my wrist and broke my L1 vertebrae. Since that time I have had 2 major surgeries on my wrist. I cannot type for any length of time at all and might possibly be facing more surgery. As for my back, I have lost more than 50% disc height anteriorly in my L1 vertebrae, I have moderate to severe degenerative disc disease from T5 through T12. I have significant pain in my back and cannot sit, stand or walk for any length of time. Any back doctor I go to has no suggestions for my back and only states the pain might or might not go away, but there is nothing they can do.

    As for my condition, I cannot sit at a computer due to the pain, I cannot type due to the pain and movement in my wrist. Typing was my livelihood for my entire working life.

    I received a letter today stating social security is sending me to a kidney doctor???? I do have an adrenal mass, but it doesn’t have any bearing on anything and is nothing. This just seems weird.

    What are your thoughts on this and what are your thoughts on the outcome of my approval of disability?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Rebecca,

      I don’t know why the exam has been ordered when you are not claiming limitations due to the mass. Nonetheless, be sure to attend the evaluation because if you do not your claim could be denied.

      If you are denied, I suggest requesting a copy of your claim file so you can see the exact reasons for the denial and the evidence on which the decision was made. In addition, I suggest hiring an experienced Social Security attorney to assist with an appeal. When you hire a Social Security attorney, you do not have to pay any legal fees up front, and you will pay attorney fees only if you are approved for benefits. Social Security law sets the amount your attorney can charge and the Social Security Administration pays the attorney directly from the retroactive award before they send your back pay to you.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Terri V

    Hi I applied for disability for my son May 21,who is 28 and has epilepsy (tonic clonic) (he had spinal meningitis when he was 3 weeks old and he has brain damage that causes his seizures). I first tried when he turned 18, but was denied. His father and I divorced after 13 years of marriage. He started receiving ssi a few years ago but he died it will be two years in June. They told me that because they denied him when he applied at 18, that he couldn’t apply under his dad’s social security record, but he has never really worked except 6 months about two years ago and has never had a driver’s license. Well they didn’t seem sure if he could or not. But I know he should be able to, anyway it is pending,after we applied he was in a bad car accident August 23’and I have been his care taker, also we have never left him alone due to his seizures. So i have applied under his dads also for survivor benefits(I am only 54,. I have an interview Dec 15. My question is, I feel they are going to approve my son, I talked to the person that was assigned to him yesterday and she said to call back Friday?? Do you think I will get approved and my son should be able to draw under his dads, right?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Terri,

      For your son to be eligible for Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB) on his father’s earnings record, there needs to be proof that he became disabled after the last denial and before he turned age twenty-two. If his income and assets are within the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) limits, he can get SSI benefits by proving that he is disabled now. (If you have not already, report any limitations from the car accident that are ongoing.)

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Christine Mccullough

    I applied for SSDI last montg. A week after applying i got a call from mybloval office about my application. I put the wrong state and city i was born in on my application. I couldnt remember what city i was born in. After looking at my birth certificate i found it. And provided it to the worker. She said she will be sending my application to the medical portion.and told me the amount i will get and said they will besending me additional information and paperwork to have my children drawl off of my ssdi. I said ok. I received 2 packets to fill out about my work history and i think it the other packet was about interest and gainful activity. And i recieved one about my high school. Asking me to help get information from them. I am applying for mental disorder that was diagosed at age 8. I didnt want to believe i had one but now i came to realize. Two days after getting the letter about my high school, I called SSA to see what i needed to do to get my HS info since it was 15 yrs ago since i grsduated. The caller at SSA told me that they received all the information they are asking for and as of right now my csse is still pending. Is this a good sign?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Christine,

      The examiner apparently decided that the school records were not needed to make a decision because you only have to prove that you are disabled now and school records from that long ago would not document your current medical/cognitive condition.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Rene

    I have held a job working about 20 – 25 hours per week for almost a year. My Gross is between 900-1000. When I’ve tried to increase hours I can’t mentally cope. My diagnosis right now is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, ADHD, and agoraphobia. I’m doing everything I can to keep my head above water, so to speak, but even trying to find a job that might be a better fit has proven impossible for me. My husband says just the little bit I am working will make it next to impossible to get SSDI because they will say I have potential to work more. I don’t know what to do, is it possible I could qualify? I don’t know how much longer I’ll even be able to keep the job I have.

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Rene,

      The Social Security definition of disability is “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted, or can be expected to last, for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.” Because you are earning less than $1,130, your work is not automatically considered substantial gainful activity and you can file a claim while working.

      Your husband is correct that your medical condition and work history will be considered in deciding whether you have the ability to work more than you are; so when you file your claim, you need to provide information and documentation to show you can’t work more.

      If you have worked in other jobs and had to quit or got fired due to decompensation (worsening) of your health when you work more hours, you can explain that for each job you lost on the form SSA-3369 that you will be asked to complete about your work history. You can also put a statement that explains why you can’t work more hours in the remarks section of your base application form. List the specific symptoms that develop when you increase your hours. (What does “not coping” look like?). Hopefully, you have discussed this with your doctor or therapist when it has occurred in the past so it will show up in your medical records.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Mary Smith

    My husband has been a janitor at a local hospital for 28 years.He has been on FMLA for the past 5 plus years with osteoarthritis of the knee.The doctor says that he needs a knee replacement which concerns him because he is diabetic.He has osteoarthritis,in both knees,both hips,fingers,shoulder elbow,and spine.He has an additional problem with his spine.All of which are degenerative and continues to get worse.He uses a large buffing machine which is believed to contribute to the osteoarthritis in his back from the twisting motion.He has a permanent limp and is now bone on bone with one of his knees.Even with reduced working hours he cannot continue with this job, and janitorial work is the only kind of work that he has ever done.He has only a high school diploma and no other skills.He misses a lot of time from work due to pain and swelling. I was wondering if he has any chance of being approved for SSDI. Thank you!

    • Mary Smith

      I forgot to mention he’s 61.

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Mary,

      Given your husband’s age and how you describe his medical condition, I would say that he has a good chance of approval. If he is earning less than $1,130 gross wages, he can apply while working. If he has to stop work, I suggest that he check with his employer to see if he has short-term disability (STD) insurance to provide some income while is the Social Security claim is being processed.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • i have worked for the state of colorado for 30 years recieve a pension,however i have worked for social security for over 25 years, at this time i have become disabled because of spinal stonisis, iam 59 can i apply for SSD AND WHAT COULD I GET

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Anthony,

      I assume that you mean that worked paying Social Security taxes for twenty-five years, and my answer is based on that assumption. If your State of Colorado wages were taxed for Social Security, you are currently insured, and there will be no offset between the benefits. If your Social Security work was for a different employer and occurred in five of the last ten years, you would be covered for Social Security Disability (SSDI), but your Social Security could be reduced if the two benefits exceed 80% of your Average Monthly Earnings as determined by Social Security. I suggest that you set up a My Social Security account on the Social Security website at http://www.ssa.gov and then request a Social Security Statement. The statement will show your Social Security-covered work, an estimate of disability and of retirement benefits and the date you were last insured for disability.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Ronald Helt

    I recently applied for early retirement (I turned 62 in Oct 14, 2016) and was granted SSI effective December 2016. However, I have ongoing health problems – heart congestion, emphysema, diabetes, neuropathy, gastro problems. I work 10-12 hours a week only as I cannot handle much more that this but was recently told (1 1/2 weeks ago) that I now have to have triple by-pass heart surgery. I met with the cardiologist today and he stated that I also need aorta repair surgery. He stated that I have had the condition developing for the last 5 years. I am wondering if I shouldn’t apply for disability as well. What would my chances be to be approved for disability.

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Ronald,

      If you are not currently earning less than $1,130 gross or you expect to be unable to do so in the future for a period of twelve months, it would be to your advantage to apply for disability benefits. With your multiple conditions and as a worker of advanced age, you may qualify for benefits. Note: if you are currently earning less than $1,130, claim as your disability onset date the date when you became medically unable to work more than 10-12 hours a week.

      Sincerely,
      Kay