Cooper's Consulting Group

Social Security Assistance

Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability?

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. You must also have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability. Social Security Disability Benefits usually continue until you are able to work again on a regular basis. 

If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, and the amount will remain the same.

Here are the basic requirements:

In addition to meeting the Social Security Disability benefits definition of disability, you must have worked long enough, and recently enough, under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits. Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year and the amount needed for a credit changes from year to year. In 2014, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,200 of wages or self-employment income. When you've earned $4,800, you've earned your four credits for the year. The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

The definition of disability under Social Security is different than other programs. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability.

"Disability" under Social Security is based on your inability to work. 
You are considered disabled under Social Security rules if:

  • You cannot do work that you did before
  • Social Security decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s)
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death

This is a strict definition of disability. Social Security Disability program rules assume that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers' compensation, insurance, savings and investments.

If you have enough work to qualify for disability benefits, they use a step-by-step process involving five questions.

The 5-Step questions  are:

  1. Are you working? If you are working in 2014 and your earnings average more than $1,070 a month, you generally cannot be considered disabled. If you are not working, they will send your application to the Disability Determination Services office that will make the decision about your medical condition. (Steps 2-5).
  2. Is your condition "severe"? Your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered. If it does not, they will find that you are not disabled. If your condition does interfere with basic work-related activities, then they go to Step 3.
  3. Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions? For each of the major body systems, they maintain a list of medical conditions that are so severe they automatically mean that you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, they have to decide if it is of equal severity to a medical condition that is on the list. If it is, they will find that you are disabled. If it is not, then they go to Step 4. Note: They have two initiatives designed to expedite the processing of new disability claims:
    Compassionate Allowances: Certain cases that usually qualify for disability can be allowed as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed. Examples include acute leukemia, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and pancreatic cancer.
    Quick Disability Determinations: They use sophisticated computer screening to identify cases with a high probability of allowance.
  4. Can you do the work you did previously? If your condition is severe but not at the same or equal level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then they must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If it does not, your claim will be denied. If it does, then they proceed to Step 5.
  5. Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do the work you did in the past, they will see if you are able to adjust to other work. They consider your medical conditions, your age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills you may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied.

Cooper's Consulting knows how to navigate the Social Security Disability system to get you the benefits you deserve. Our experience can increase your chances of being approved and maximize the benefits you are awarded. Don't get denied on a technicality. Put our knowledge to work for you. If you have questions about Social Security or SSI Disability, give our office a call. The consultation is free.