If you have been diagnosed with a medical condition that prevents you from going to work for at least 12 months you may medically qualify for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI). However, before a decision is made about your medical condition you will have to meet non-medical requirements as well before applying for SSDI. One is whether you have sufficient work credits to qualify for SSDI while the other is whether you can engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA).
Social Security work credits are calculated on your total annual wages or income from self-employment. You may earn up to four credits annually. In 2021 one credit is issued for every $1,470 you have been paid in wages or self-employment income.
When you have earned $5,880, you will have gained four credits for that year. This is the maximum number of work credits you may earn in one year. How many work credits you require to qualify for SSDI will depend on the age you are when you became disabled.
For example, if you are in your 60s you will need 40 credits, but 20 of those need to have been earned in the last 10 years leading up to the diagnosis of your disability. Before reaching 24 years of age you may qualify if you have earned 6 credits in the 3-year period which ended at the onset of your disability. If you are aged 31 years or older you will need at least 20 credits which you will have accrued in the 10-year period before you became disabled.
Substantial Gainful Activity
One of the key requirements for eligibility for SSDI is that your medical condition needs to be severe enough to stop you from working for at least 12 months. Social Security normally uses the "substantial gainful activity" (SGA) level to calculate what is too much work.
In 2021, SGA is earning $1,310 or more a month from being employed, or $2,190 for blind people. If the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines you are working at the SGA level, you will not qualify for benefits. If you are getting SSDI benefits and you start to work above the SGA level, your benefits could be stopped but only after the completion of a trial work period.
You could still qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if you aren’t eligible for SSDI because your SGA is too high but you must have less than $2,000 in income and assets. If you are married, your joint income and assets with your spouse must be less than $3,000. This includes cash, land, personal property, investments, vehicles, etc. You will still need to be able to prove that you have a disability before you can be granted SSI.
Get Assistance with Your Disability Claim
If you’re not sure how to apply to disability benefits on your own you should consider working with an attorney. Your lawyer may be able to help you determine if you meet both the non-medical requirements and the medical requirements for SSDI. Fill out the Free Case Evaluation today to get connected with an independent, participating attorney!