Disability strikes when you least expect it, leaving you unsure where to turn next. An accident happens or you receive a diagnosis, and suddenly your life has changed forever. How are you supposed to provide? How can you take care of yourself, let alone family members?
Disability benefits are there to help when you can no longer work for a regular income. However, starting the process of receiving disability benefits is fraught with questions and may have you concerned for your future.
Unsure how to navigate this new part of life? Use this guide to help you decide if you qualify for disability benefits.
Do I qualify for disability?
Qualifying for disability requires that you meet several requirements. First, you will have to have worked in jobs that have contributed taxes to Social Security in order to receive benefits based on what you have paid into. This allows you to build up a certain number of credits that can prove your eligibility. For those who have not paid enough in taxes to Social Security, they may still be eligible for SSI disability benefits.
You will also need to meet the definition of disability as set by the Social Security Administration:
- Cannot accomplish any tasks needed by a job. The first way that Social Security will determine your eligibility is to see if you can still perform the duties of any full-time job you worked at in the 15 year period prior to the month you began attempting to claiming disability. If this is not the case and you cannot perform any of those jobs, they will then consider if you can perform the duties of another job that exists in the United States. In order to be deemed disabled, you must be unable to mentally and physically accomplish tasks during a 40 hour work week like lifting, standing, walking, remembering, maintaining adequate focus and concentrating.
- Last for at least a year or result in death. Health issues that will resolve with treatment within a year of you stopping work are not eligible to receive disability benefits. In order to be eligible, your disability must either last for over a year or eventually result in death.
- Listed in the Social Security Blue Book. The Blue Book is a comprehensive list of conditions that are eligible to receive disability benefits. It includes impairments of the musculoskeletal system, skin disorders, neurological disorders, respiratory disorders and more. Your disability will need to fall under one of the conditions listed in the Blue Book to qualify.
- Fall under compassionate allowances or quick disability determinations. There are some conditions under which you can receive disability benefits sooner. Medical issues like acute leukemia, ALS and early-onset Alzheimer’s may be eligible for benefits as soon as the case is confirmed as part of compassionate allowance. For those who clearly meet the standards of disability, they may be eligible for quick disability determination (QDD). This uses a computer-predictive model to determine if you fit the criteria without any extra effort on your part.
How do credits work?
Each year that you work, you are eligible for up to four credits from the Social Security Administration. Credits are the measurement used to determine if you can receive disability and retirement benefits from Social Security. You must earn at least 20 out of 40 credits in the ten year period prior to when your health has prevented you from full-time work. If you have not filled this requirement, you are not eligible to receive disability based on what you have paid into Social Security. However, the credits you have earned will still provide you with retirement benefits once you retire. SSI disability benefits may be available still to those who have not obtained enough work credits.
Typically, younger workers under age 30 will usually require fewer credits to be eligible for benefits. Depending on your age, you may only require between six and 20 credits. The rules become a bit more difficult to navigate for younger workers who become disabled, so check with your local Social Security office to see if you fit within the guidelines for disability first.
Over the course of your life, you’ll likely earn far more credits than you could need. However, there will be no additional payout for these extra credits. Instead, they help to provide peace of mind should you become disabled during your life.
Can I still work on disability?
Working and applying for disability benefits can be tricky. In order to qualify for disability benefits, there is a maximum amount of money you are allowed to earn each month. This number changes each year and is usually higher for people with blindness. In 2018, the limit for a non-blind person is $1,180 gross income per month. With this cap, you will be limited in the jobs you can work and the hours you get.
If you ultimately qualify for disability benefits and would like to try going back into the full-time workforce, you are able to start a trial work period. The specifics of the program are as follows:
- Receive unlimited earnings while still keeping your benefits for nine months
- A non-consecutive nine month period of working. Once you have worked for over nine months earning more than $850, your disability benefits will stop.
- If you earn less than $850 in a month, it will not count as one of your trial work months.
- After completion of your trial work period, the Social Security Administration will reevaluate if you truly need disability benefits.
You don’t have to tackle this by yourself. The help of a skilled attorney can make the process of receiving your disability benefits faster and more efficient.
Contact Reynolds and Gold today. We can schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and work to get you the benefits you deserve.