SSDI stands for “Social Security Disability Insurance.” The Social Security Administration oversees and administers several programs, many of which are benefit programs for those who are disabled. One of the main characteristics distinguishing SSDI from other programs is that SSDI is a type of federal insurance program. That means that those who use the program must have paid for it in addition to meeting the medical qualifications for coverage. As a result, whether someone qualifies for SSDI will depend not only on their health, but on whether they paid into the program. To learn more about SSDI and how to determine if you qualify for SSDI benefits, contact an experienced Social Security Disability attorney with Bruce L. Weider, PC today by calling (734) 485-0535.
What Is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?
SSDI benefits provide monthly benefit payments to qualifying formerly employed individuals who have an illness or injury that stops them from being able to work. SSDI is a federally administered disability program funded by individuals who pay into the Social Security Administration (SSA) as part of their employment. Monies for the SSDI program are taken directly from worker wages, just like state and federal income taxes.
As of June 2022, there are 7.8 million disabled workers receiving benefits from the SSA. The SSDI program was designed to provide workers with a way to still support themselves if they become unable to work. However, the program does not always work as intended. According to USAFacts, only roughly 38% of first-time applicants will receive benefits. While some people certainly do not qualify for SSDI, many applicants may meet the qualifications but do not present enough documented evidence, in the right way, to show that they qualify. A Social Security Disability benefits attorney may be able to explain some steps to take when an application for Social Security disability is denied.
Qualifications for SSDI
In general, those who qualify for SSDI must meet two criteria. They must have paid into the program for a specified amount of time or up to a certain dollar value, and they must have a disability.
Work Credit Requirements
Applicants must have enough “work credits” before they can successfully apply to receive SSDI benefits. Work credits are based on whether you earned enough wages in any one quarter. Each quarter is one credit, so workers can earn four work credits each year. The SSA calls each of these quarters or credits “quarter of coverage.”
To earn a work credit, the worker must have earned wages sufficient to meet the minimum federal threshold for that period, but the dollar value of the work is adjusted periodically to keep up with inflation. In 2023, for instance, one work credit is equal to $1,640, so to earn the full four credits in 2023, the worker must have earned $6,560 during the year.
How Many Credits Do I Need?
To qualify for SSDI, each worker needs a specific minimum number of credits. That minimum number varies based on the age at which the disability begins. If someone becomes disabled at 20 years old, for example, their required work credits are going to be lower than someone who becomes disabled at age 55.
As a general rule, a worker needs 40 credits total, and 20 of those credits must have been earned in the last 10 years before the individual became disabled. If a worker earns a credit each quarter, that means they need to work for at least 10 years before they are eligible to apply for SSDI. Bruce L. Weider, PC, may be able to help you determine whether you have enough work credits by reviewing your work history with you.
Can I Work and Receive SSDI Benefits?
If you are working, you might not qualify for SSDI benefits. Workers’ wages have to be below the level the SSA defines as “substantial gainful activity” to qualify for benefits. In 2023, if the worker earns more than $1,470 per month, then they will not qualify for SSDI.
The rationale behind this restriction is simple. SSDI is only for workers who are medically disabled and completely unable to work. Someone who is engaging in substantial gainful activity is presumed to be able to work, although their working capacity may be limited.
SSDI’s definition of disability is different compared to other programs. By contrast to some other programs, SSDI is only for total disability—there are no benefits available for partial disability or for a short-term timeframe.
The disabling condition must be severe enough to prevent the individual from engaging in any type of work for a long period of time. The general requirements to meet the definition of disabled include:
- A diagnosed medical condition expected to last at least one year or result in death
- Inability to engage in work, which includes any substantial gainful activity (SGA), because of the medical condition
Keep in mind that the definition of disabled is not exclusive to the job an individual held before the disability—for SSDI purposes, the ability to engage in any type of employment will disqualify an applicant from receiving benefits. An individual who used to work in a heavy labor job with a railroad company but received severe back injuries in a car accident might no longer be able to lift heavy items as required by their job. However, the same individual might be able to lift lighter objects or do office tasks in a different career field. In this case, they would not qualify for SSDI benefits.
How Severe Must the Disability Be To Qualify for SSDI?
The SSA will consider the relative severity of the applicant’s medical condition when determining whether benefits are appropriate. They may request information about a worker’s ability to do very simple tasks, such as:
- Remembering or processing information
If a worker cannot do these basic things, they are more likely to be considered severely disabled enough to qualify for SSDI. Each of these activities must be limited for at least a period of 12 months as well.
The SSA maintains a list of medical conditions that they will often automatically consider severe enough to qualify for SSDI benefits. If the condition is on the list, SSDI benefits are more likely to be awarded. If your condition is not on the list, then the SSA will have to do a more thorough investigation into a former worker’s abilities to determine whether they meet the requirements for SSDI.
Get Help With Your SSDI Application or Appeal
Although SSDI benefits are supposed to benefit those Americans who are disabled and qualify for SSDI, the system is complicated. You may not receive benefits that you are entitled to receive if you do not present medical information or other data in a specific (and comprehensive) way. An experienced Michigan SSDI lawyer may be able to help with this process. Contact Bruce L. Weider, PC, to learn more by calling (734) 485-0535.