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Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance?

By Mike Raye

You’ve been injured or become ill and find you can’t work. How do you replace your lost income? Applying for disability benefits through Social Security could be the answer, as long as you follow the rules.

Applications for disability benefits may be made online at the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) web site,  Click on the tab labeled “Disability” and then on the button “Apply for Disability.” This will begin the application process, and lead you through a series of questions to help you complete your claim. Filing your claim online saves time, and avoids having to schedule an appointment at your local Social Security office.

You can use the online application if you meet the following requirements:

Social Security work credits are based on a year’s pay, with a maximum of four work credits earned per year. The formula for determining work credits has changed over the years. In 2011, you earn one credit for each $1,120 of pay, and when you’ve earned $4,480, you’ve earned your four credits for the year.

Your age at the time of disability helps determine the number of credits necessary to be eligible. The longer you’ve worked, the more credits you need. Generally speaking, you need 40 work credits, with half of that (20) earned in the last 10 years of work, ending with the year you are disabled. If you are disabled before age 24, you may qualify if you have earned 6 credits in the three previous years. If you are disabled at age 50, you need 28 credits, and if you are disabled at age 62 or above, you’ll need 40 work credits.

Sound confusing? Don’t worry. The SSA has a disability planner on their web site to help you determine your eligibility.

So you’ve been approved, what next? How long does it take for the payments to begin?

You will begin receiving payments six full months after your claim has been approved. The SSA pays benefits in a kind of post-dated fashion, a month behind. For example, your January benefits will be paid in February, your February benefits in March, and so on. It’s a bit like getting a paycheck -- you’re paid after the “work” has been done.

How much you’re paid is determined by calculating an average of your lifetime earnings you paid Social Security taxes on. There are benefit calculators on the SSA web site, or you can call 1-800-772-1213 for information.

In most cases you will continue to receive benefits as long as you are disabled, but the SSA can review your case periodically to prove you’re still disabled. You will be notified in advance of a review, but the law also requires you notify the SSA if you’re able to go back to work.

Two factors can weigh against you and cause the SSA to stop your disability benefit payments. One, if you earn more than $1,000 a month while also receiving disability checks, the SSA considers you’ve worked at a “substantial” level and you no longer need benefits. The second factor is if it can be proven you’re well enough to go back to work, your benefits will also end.

There are special provisions under which you may be able to ease back into work while still receiving benefits, such as the SSA’s “Ticket to Work” program. More information can be found at, or by calling 1-866-968-7842. Under this program, you can get rehabilitation, get training, job referrals and have access to free job support services. This program continues as long as you can show you’re working at getting back to work.

If you would like a disability attorney to review your claim you can fill out the FREE evaluation form and a disability advocate will call you to review your claim or you can call our office at1-800-641-3759 to talk to someone now