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Understanding Social Security Disability Insurance and Qualifications


Anyone can become either temporarily or permanently disabled. Some projections are estimating that Americans in their 20s today have an approximate 30 percent chance of experiencing a disability profound enough to cause them to miss three or more months of work before retiring. Despite the risks, most Americans do not carry short or long-term disability insurance. Close to half of all mortgage foreclosures are due to owners being struck with a disability, and fewer than 15 percent of people who purchase life insurance opt for disability insurance. The Social Security Administration ("SSA") was tasked in 1956 to address disability and work income by creating a disability insurance program. Throughout its long history, additional rules have contributed to its complex regulations and eligibility requirements that make applying for disability benefits difficult.


The disability benefits are in the form of monthly payments to provide a safety net for qualified individuals who have become too disabled to work. The benefits are paid through the Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") or the Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") Programs. Both of the programs are intended for disabled workers, but they have different benefits and qualifying requirements as well as different funding sources.


To become eligible for the SSDI program, you will have worked a required number of years in a job where you paid into the social security taxes (FICA, Federal Insurance Contributions Act). You have to have accrued a certain number of work credits. You can earn up to 4 work credits per year. Workers that do not have the required number of work years and who also have low income and minimal assets can apply for SSI. In both programs, you are not eligible to be engaged in a "substantial gainful activity" ("SGA"), earning a certain amount of income from some other work.


The number of work credits required as a qualification for SSDI benefits depends on the age at which you became disabled. Generally, it is possible to qualify if you have earned at least 20 credits in the ten years before being disabled and if you have earned credits that total 40 or more. If you do not have enough work credits to qualify, there is a chance you can become qualified based on a spouse or parent's work record. There are many regulations governing eligibility for SSDI, and each individual has a varied work history. To understand how to qualify and how much you should be able to receive, it is best to contact a legal professional for help.