Non-medical requirements for SSDI claimTo qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you must have a medical condition that stops you from working. The condition must meet Blue Book requirements from the Social Security Administration (SSA). But having just a medical condition isn’t enough. When applying for SSDI benefits, you need to know what else the SSA needs and be able to provide it. An experienced lawyer can answer any questions you may have.

Generally, you can only get SSDI benefits if you cannot work for at least a year. There is a five-month waiting period. This means the first benefit payment won’t come until the sixth full month. Your Massachusetts disability lawyer can answer any questions you may have. 

How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance

To qualify for SSDI, you will first need to have a medical condition stopping you from working and prove you are disabled for SSDI. Without this, the SSA will deny your application. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must also meet non-medical requirements such as:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who has paid Social Security taxes. Non-citizens and active U.S. military may qualify if they meet other criteria.
  • Have worked in jobs covered by Social Security, including self-employment
  • Be between 18 and 65 years of age
  • Be unable to work or have a reduced ability to work
  • Apply before your date last insured (DLI)
  • Not be engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA)
  • Have earned enough Social Security work credits

What Is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?

Substantial gainful activity (SGA) refers to any work making you more than a certain limit. SSA defines this limit each year. For 2023, SGA is defined as $1,470 per month in gross income. For people who are legally blind, the SGA monthly earnings limit is $2,460 in gross income.

If you exceed the SGA limit, SSA will deny your SSDI claim. Based on this definition, you are not disabled. This means you can work a little bit and still receive SSDI benefits. But, if your monthly earnings come close to SGA limits, your claim may be denied. 

What Are Work Credits and How Many Do You Need?

To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked and paid Social Security taxes. The SSA counts this in the form of work credits. You can earn up to four work credits per year. In 2023, you earn one credit for each $1,640 of earnings. This includes wages and self-employment income. After you’ve earned $6,560, you will have earned all four credits for 2023. The amount needed per credit has increased each year. Members of the U.S. military earn work credits the same way.

The number of work credits you need depends on the age at which you developed your disability. For example:

  • Before age 24, you need six credits.
  • Between 24 and 30, you need half the credits between age 21 and disability onset.
  • Between 31 and 42, you need 20 credits.
  • At age 44, you need 22 credits.
  • At age 46, you need 24 credits.
  • At age 48, you need 26 credits.
  • At age 50, you need 28 credits.
  • At age 54, you need 32 credits.
  • At age 56, you need 34 credits.
  • At age 58, you need 36 credits.
  • At age 60, you need 38 credits.
  • At age 62 or older, you need 40 credits. 

After the age of 30, at least 20 work credits must be from the ten years just before the disability. If you receive the full four credits each year, this works out to five years of work in the last ten years. Understand that you still need to meet the minimum total credits.

How an Attorney Can Help

If filing for benefits is not as easy as you had hoped, you may want to enlist the help of an attorney. Many factors could complicate your application. Since the SSA requires enough evidence to justify your claim, even if you have a legitimate medical condition. The reasons could be that your income exceeds SGA limits or you haven’t earned enough work credits, or you haven’t earned them recently enough. There could also be a clerical error to deny your claim.

By working with the experienced attorneys at Keefe Law, we can ensure your SSDI application is accurate and complete. We will help you gather the appropriate documentation from medical records to work records. And, if your application is denied, our Boston disability attorneys can appeal your denied claim. We are on your side.

Schedule Your Free Consultation Today

Get the guidance and support you need. Before you apply for SSDI benefits, reach out to Keefe Law. Contact us by calling 508-283-5500 or toll-free at 888-904-6847, or complete our online contact form. We can schedule a free case evaluation and review your application. We can help you have the best chance at expedient approval and maximum benefits. 

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