Social Security Disability Resource Center

Overview | How to Qualify | Applications
Requirements | How long it takes | Back Pay
Mental Disability | What is a disability? | Tips
SSI Benefits | How to Win | Disability Awards
Hearings | Appeals | List of Disabling Conditions

The Qualification Criteria for Social Security Disability

There are two separate disability programs from which you can draw benefits: The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

Both programs are meant to provide a source of income to those who are unable to work due to their disability, and both are administered by the federal social security administration (SSA). However, the qualifications that an applicant must meet before being approved for disability under each program are different.

SSDI is really a form of disability insurance, and is covered by title II of the Social Security Act. It is meant to function much as any private insurance coverage would, in that you pay a certain “premium” (in this case it’s automatically taken out of your pay check FICA taxes) to collect a certain benefit (disability benefits) should you need it.

However, SSDI doesn’t fully cover everyone that works or has worked in the past; only those who have worked enough in the last 10 years. If you are 31 or older, in order to qualify for full SSDI coverage, you have to have earned at least $21,000 over the last 10 years; and a total of $42,000 since you began working.

Of course, nothing in government can be easy, so it’s important to note that the SSA doesn’t calculate earnings in dollars, but rather in work credits. As of 2008, you get 1 work credit for every $1,050 you earn in three consecutive months, so the amount the SSA credits you can receive each year is capped at 4 ($4,000) work credits per year. The dollar amount associated with 1 work credit is recalculated by SSA each year for inflation. If you have not earned this amount, you will not qualify for full disability coverage under the SSDI program, but may be eligible for SSI benefits.

SSI is provided for under title XVI of the Social Security Act, and this disability program is for disabled individuals who have not worked enough to qualify for SSDI and who can demonstrate financial need. To qualify for SSI you do not have to have earned any work credits, but you do have to prove that your total assets do not exceed $2,000 ($3,000 if you are married) with the exception of one car and your home. In some cases social security will allow you to collect SSI for a few months while you try to sell some of your excess assets, such as an extra car or other property that is in your name (other than your residence).

It is possible to be approved for both SSDI and SSI. SSDI payments are based on the amount you have earned, so those who have worked a short time or with a history of lower incomes may be eligible for only a small SSDI benefit, and, if there is an economic need, may collect SSI benefits as well.

Both SSD and SSI programs award benefits only to those who are unable to participate in SGA (substantial gainful activity) due to a severe medical impairment, be it physical or mental. SGA equates to a specific earnings limit per month, so if you are able to earn more than that you will not qualify for any type of disability benefits. In addition, both SSD and SSI require that your medical condition is not expected to improve with medical treatment over a period of not less than one year.

  • What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

  • What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

  • Which conditions will social security recognize as a disability?

  • Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

  • SSDRC Homepage:

    Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center

    The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work

    Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

    Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    More Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    Common Questions about Social Security Disability and SSI

    Winning Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    The SSI Disability Benefits Program

    Social Security Disability SSI and Doctors - Yours and Theirs

    Social Security Disability and SSI Claim Reviews

    Social Security Disability SSI System and Benefits for Children

    Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative

    What you should know about Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

    Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney

    Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits

    Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability

    Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits for Children

    Disability Benefits through Social Security

    Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records

    Filing your claim for disability benefits

    Eligibility for receiving disability benefits

    Resources on this site

    Social Security Disability, SSI Terms and Definitions

    Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

    The SSDRC Disability Blog

    For Individuals living in North Carolina

    Disability in North Carolina

    North Carolina Disability Lawyer

    Getting disability in North Carolina

    Related pages:

    Who qualifies for disability? - Qualifying is based on evidence of functional limitations
    How to qualify for disability - The Process of Qualifying for Benefits
    To qualify for Social Security disability or SSI, how severe must a condition be?
    Can You Qualify for Disability if you did not work much?
    How Do You Qualify For Disability without Money To Go To the Doctor?
    The Qualification Criteria for Social Security Disability
    What If You Did Not Work Long Enough To Qualify For Disability?
    Qualifying for disability benefits with the social security administration
    Qualifying for Disability - What is Social Security Looking for?
    Do You Qualify For Social Security Disability Insurance?
    What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
    What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?
    Do You Have To Qualify For SSI Financially?
    How does work qualify you for disability? (work credits)

    Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

    Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

    These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

    Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
    How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
    Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
    What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
    How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
    How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
    Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
    Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria
    What are non-medical requirements and criteria for Social Security Disability?
    How recent do medical records need to be for a SSD or SSI disability claim?