Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) estimates that one out of every four 20-year-old workers today will be disabled before reaching full retirement age. Nobody plans to become disabled, but it can happen to you and it can leave you with questions, such as:

  • How will I pay my bills?

  • Can anyone help me?

Fortunately, the Social Security disability program was developed to address these concerns and it can provide you with important financial relief if you qualify. In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must meet the SSA’s definition of disability and have paid enough into the Social Security system.

How Disability Is Defined

According to the SSA, you are disabled for purposes of Social Security disability if:

  • You are totally disabled.

  • You cannot work. This includes the work that you did before you were disabled and other work.

  • Your disability has lasted or is predicted to last for at least one year or it is expected to result in your death.

There are certain illnesses and conditions that are considered permanently disabling. If your disability appears on the SSA's list of qualifying medical conditions, then you are considered disabled for purposes of Social Security disability. Alternatively, if your condition is not on the list, but it is decided that it is equal in severity to those on the list, then you can qualify.

It is important to fully describe your condition, your treatment, and side effects of your condition or treatment on your application so that you provide a full and accurate description of the extent of your disability.

If you believe that you are disabled, then it is important to consider whether you have worked long enough to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Do You Have Enough Work Credits?

Work credits are based on the amount of work that you have done and your age when you become disabled. In most cases, you need to have earned 40 credits over your working years with 20 of those credits occurring in the last 10 years. However, the SSA does recognize that fewer credits are required for younger workers. For example, you only need six credits over a three year period if you are 24 years old or younger when you become disabled.

How Your Claim Will Be Decided

If you have a disability and enough work credits to qualify for Social Security disability, then you will need to have your application approved by proving that you having a disability. It is important to understand how that process works before you file your application. Generally:

  • Initial claims are fielded through a network of local Social Security field offices and state agencies. Your disability claim begins either in person, by telephone, by mail, or online.

  • The State Disability Determination Services (DDS) reviews your application and eventually makes the determination about your eligibility.

  • Your claim then goes back to the Field Office. If it is approved, you will begin receiving benefits. If it is not, you can make a first appeal, which is reviewed in much the same way by different people.

You can increase your chances of having your application approved by providing all of the information requested and by fully describing your disability.

Get the Help You Need Before You Apply

You can save yourself time and needless aggravation by getting help before you apply for Social Security disability benefits. The process may be delayed further if the SSA requests additional information about your application or denies your claim based on the information you provided in your application.

Don’t let this happen to you. Our experienced disability lawyers would be pleased to provide you with a free consultation if you have any question about your eligibility for Social Security disability. Please read our FREE book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, or call us directly to schedule your free evaluation today.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer