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Requirements for Disability Benefits

The United States Federal government has created two benefit programs for individuals who are unable to work. The first program, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), was created in 1956 as an expansion of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). SSDI was created as “insurance” for disabled workers who were not able to work due to a mental or physical health condition. Employees now pay taxes each pay period to fund the SSDI program. Employees who become disabled and they have contributed enough in taxes, may receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

Requirement for Social Security Disability Insurance

How do disabled employees qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance? “Work credits” must be accrued by working and paying employment taxes. The amount of work credits needed for each employee will vary, but most workers over the age of 30 will need at least 40 work credits. Credits can accrue at a rate of 4 credits per year.

Employees must also be determined disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Unfortunately, the disability determination process is a bit more complicated than bringing a doctor’s note to the SSA. Qualifying mental and physical impairments must be considered severe and be expected to last at least 12 months or result in death. Social Security Disability Insurance is not awarded for short-term disabilities or partial disabilities.

Widows, widowers, dependants (under the age of 18) and disabled dependants (over the age of 18 who were determined disabled prior to the age of 22) of an insured worker may also receive Social Security Disability Insurance.

Full Criteria for SSDI Benefits

Requirements for Supplemental Security Income Benefits

Before 1972, most disability benefits for the aged and blind were managed at the state level. The Social Security Administration, in an effort to standardize care, created the Supplemental Security Income program. Unlike Social Security Disability Insurance, to qualify for SSI benefits the claimant does not have to earn work credits or contribute toward payroll taxes. They must, however, be aged (65 years or older), blind or disabled and have limited income and resources. Limited resources is defined as having liquid assets (stocks, bonds, extra cars, cash) which are less than $2,000 (for an individual) and $3,000 (for a couple).

Determining a claimant is disabled is similar for both the SSI and the SSDI program. Claimants may not be engaged in substantial gainful activity which in 2010 is making more than $1,000 per month for a non-blind disabled individual.

Full Criteria for Supplemental Security Income benefits: