To start qualifying for disability, you need to possess enough work experience in jobs that are recognized by the Social Security Administration. You also need to have a valid medical condition which falls under the SSA’s definition of disability. Typically, the SSA will provide monthly disability benefits to those who’ve been unable to work for at least a year due to their condition.
If you qualify for disability benefits you will receive them monthly until you can return to work. Work incentives, which supply continued benefits and health care coverage, are provided as well to ease your transition back into the work force.
If you are receiving disability payments at your full retirement age, the SSA will automatically convert your disability payments into retirement benefits, but the payment amount will stay the same.
How Long Do You Need To Work?
Other than possessing a valid medical condition that fits the SSA’s disability definition, you need to have worked long enough and fairly recently to qualify for disability benefits.
The SSA awards work credits based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income, with the capacity to earn no more than 4 credits per year.
The amount required to receive a work credit varies year to year. For example, in 2018 you receive one work credit for each $1,320 in wages or self-employment income. When you’ve reached $5,280, the SSA awards you 4 work credits, the maximum, for that year.
How many work credits you need to become eligible for disability benefits is dependent on the age of when you became disabled. Typically, the SSA requires 40 credits, 20 of which must be earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you became disabled. On the contrary, if you’re a younger work then you could qualify with fewer credits.
The key thing to note about the SSA’s work credit requirement is no matter your age, you need to have earned enough work credits within a certain period ending with the year you entered disability. If you’re eligible at this moment to receive disability benefits but stop working under Social Security, you may not meet the SSA’s work credit requirement later on.
What Is Disability To Social Security?
The Social Security Administration’s definition of disability is unlike other programs. Social Security pays only for total disability, they will not award benefits for partial disability or for short-term disability.
The SSA considers you disabled if:
- You cannot meet the job requirements of your previous occupation,
- You are determined to be unable to adjust to other work due to your medical condition(s); and
- Your disability has remained or is expected to remain for at least a year or result in death.
Social Security is very strict on this definition of disability. The Social Security disability program assumes that working families have access to other resources that provide assistance during periods of short-term disabilities such as workers’ compensation, insurance, savings, and investments.
How Does The SSA Decide If You’re Disabled?
If you have accumulated enough work credits to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, then the SSA will begin their 5-step process. The steps are 5 questions which are:
1. Are you working?
If you are currently employed in 2018 and your earnings average more than $1,180 each month, you typically will not be considered disabled.
If you are not working, the SSA will send your disability application to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office where your medical condition be evaluated to see if you qualify. The DDS uses Steps 2-5 (found below) to make a decision.
2. Is your condition “severe”?
Your medical condition must impair your ability to complete basic work tasks such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, and memory recollection, lasting for at least 12 months. If it does not, the DDS will not consider you disabled.
If your condition does impair your ability to complete basic work tasks, the DDS will move to step 3.
3. Is your condition recognized by the Social Security Administration?
For every major body system, the SSA maintains a list of medical conditions that are considered severe enough that it prevents someone from earning substantial gainful activity. If your condition is not on the list, the SSA will need to decide if it is as severe as a medical condition that is already on the list. If it is, the DDS will determine that you are disabled. If not, the DDS proceeds to step 4.
The DDS have two methods that are designed to speed up the processing of new disability claims:
- Compassionate Allowances: Specific cases that typically qualify for disability can be permitted as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed. An example of this would be acute leukemia, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), and pancreatic cancer.
- Quick Disability Determinations: The DDS uses advanced computer screening to sort cases with a high probability of allowance.
4. Can you complete the work you did in the past?
Step 4 is where the DDS decides if your medical condition(s) prevents you from completing any of your previous work. If it doesn’t, the DDS will decide that you do not qualify for disability. If it does, they will continue to step 5.
5. Can you work any other job?
If you’re unable to complete work done previously, the DDS will determine if there are any other jobs you could work despite your condition(s).
The DDS considers your medical condition(s) and age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills you may possess. If you are unable to work, the DDS will decide that you’re eligible for disability. If you can do other work, you will not be considered disabled and your disability claim will be denied.
Submitting Your Disability Claim
You can submit your Social Security disability claim conveniently online. You can also schedule an appointment with your local Social Security office to file an application. Call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday or contact your local Social Security office.
A few of the most popular Social Security Offices in Texas are provided below: