The first step in applying for disability benefits is to determine whether you are eligible for benefits. Eligibility is different for all four disability programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
There are three basic conditions you must meet to qualify for SSDI:
- You must have one of the listed disabling conditions and/or be unable to work for one full year
- You must have earned sufficient work credits
- You must have earned sufficient work credits recently enough
Disabling conditions are recognized by the SSA as being severe enough to qualify for benefits if they prevent you from working for at least a year. They include both injuries and illnesses.
Work credits are earned by work. You earn one work credit for every $1000 or so you earn in wages, up to a maximum of four credits per year. To get full benefits you must have earned 40 work credits in your lifetime, and 20 in the last ten years, though you may qualify for partial benefits sooner, depending on your age.
SSI benefits are based primarily on need. To qualify for SSI, you must have limited resources, be unable to work, and have one of the following characteristics:
- Be over age 65, or
- Be legally blind, or
- Be disabled
For more information, please see our SSI page.
When your spouse dies, you can apply for disability benefits if your spouse was either fully invested, or, in some cases, currently covered by SSDI.
To apply for this type of benefit, you must be:
- Over 60
- Caring for the child or children of the qualified worker
- Be disabled yourself and age 50 or over
Adult Disabled Child
Some people who became disabled before they ever had a chance to earn work credits may qualify for adult disabled child benefits. To qualify for these benefits, you must be:
- Disabled since before the age of 22
- 18 or older
- The child of a parent who meets the work credit qualification for SSDI and is taking either SSDI or retirement benefits
In addition to parents, stepparents and grandparents can qualify an adult disabled child for benefits.
If you want to learn whether you are eligible for any of these Social Security benefits, please click here for a free eligibility evaluation. Your financial future is at stake. You have nothing to lose as the evaluation is completely free and without obligation.