If you can no longer work because of a physical or mental disability, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. This federal program is available to those with an eligible medical issue who have earned a certain number of SSDI work credits.

How do I know if I am qualified to receive SSD benefits?

You must have earned enough work credits in order to qualify for benefits. In general, eligible individuals have worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least 10 years. Then, you must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disabled. While this varies by condition, generally, the agency considers a person disabled if he or she has a condition that prevents employment for at least 12 months or that will result in a death.

What is a qualifying disability?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses these five questions to determine if a person has a qualifying disability:

  • Do you currently work? If you earn more than $1,260 average per month this year, the agency will not consider you disabled.
  • Do you have a severe physical or mental condition? You must show that your physical or mental state prevented you from working for at least 12 months.
  • Does your condition appear on the SSA list of disabling conditions? When you have a disability that is not on the list, the SSA will consider its severity based on your symptoms.
  • Can you do the same work you used to do? For example, if you previously worked in construction but have a leg injury that limits your ability to get around, you may qualify for benefits.
  • Can you do another type of work? The SSA will review your age, complete health status, abilities, experience and education.

Special guidelines exist for people who cannot work because of low vision or blindness.

When you are approved for SSDI benefits, payments should start the sixth month after the onset of your disability. If your claim is denied, do not give up. Many claims are wrongfully denied for a wide variety of reasons. You do have the right to appeal that decision, and many people are successful only after appealing.