If you are not disabled currently, chances are you don't think about whether you are entitled to receive Social Security Disability benefits in the event that you incur a disability. However, the unfortunate reality is that 1 in 4 workers will become disabled by the time they reach the age of 67. Becoming disabled can be an emotionally and financially overwhelming experience. Newly disabled individuals often find themselves in a state of shock and uncertainty, and whether or not they qualify for benefits becomes the central question in their lives.
Today we seek to explain some of the basics regarding Social Security Disability benefits eligibility. However, this is just general information. The law is nuanced and every situation is unique, and because of this we highly recommend that you consult with a Social Security Disability attorney.
While Social Security benefits are frequently referred to as an entitlement, this isn't exactly true. Instead, the benefits must be earned by contributing to the workforce and by paying Social Security taxes out of your income. In order to qualify for benefits, an individual must (1) have a disability as defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and (2) have earned sufficient "credits" by working and contributing to the system.
The Social Security Administration considers a disability to be a medical condition that prevents an individual from working and is expected to last at least one year or result in death. It is a strict definition, and no benefits are available for partial or temporary disability. This is one of the many reasons it is a good idea to purchase a short-term disability insurance policy.
"Work credits" are granted by the SSA to individuals based primarily on the amount of time they have worked. How many credits an individual needs to receive social security disability benefits depends on that individual's age when they become disabled. Generally, if you are under 24, you need to have earned 6 credits within the 3-year period prior to your disability. From age 24 to 31, you will need credits for � of the time between age 21 and the age at which you become disabled. From 31 on, it becomes more complicated (the SSA provides a chart here), as at least 20 of the credits must have been earned in the 10 years leading up to your disability.
In short, you need work credits, and those credits generally must be fairly recent. How do you earn credits? That part is fairly simple. You earn credits by working, and can receive up to 4 per year. The details are slightly more complex – you have to earn a certain amount of money to qualify, and calculation may be annual or quarterly, depending on whether the work was performed before or after 1978.
Again, Social Security Disability attorneys deal with these calculations every day, and can help you quickly determine your eligibility status. If you are disabled and would like to know whether you qualify for benefits, the attorneys at the Rocky Mountain Disability Law Group can analyze your situation to help you plan for your future.