There are several guidelines for Social Security benefits. If you worked in a job covered by Social Security and have a medical condition that meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of disability, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability Income—or SSDI—as long as you earn less than the monthly income threshold set by the SSA. For 2020, these monthly income limits are $2,110 for blind individuals and $1,260 for non-blind individuals.
A second Social Security Disability program, Social Security Income (SSI), assists people who are disabled and have limited income. This program may offer benefits even if you did not work a job covered by Social Security.
Additional Guidelines for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) Benefits
The Social Security Administration (SSA) publishes various guidelines for Social Security Disability benefits. This includes:
First, you must have a medical condition that meets the SSA’s definition of a disability. Many types of disabilities can qualify you for SSDI. The SSA’s adult listings of disabilities include various cancers, congenital disorders, sensory disorders such as blindness, and respiratory disorders, amongst others. Childhood listings include similar disabilities as the adult listings, as well as low birth weight and various childhood disabilities.
Your medical condition may need to be provable via diagnostic testing, and it may need to be determined that the condition will lead to the inability to work for at least 12 consecutive months. If you can work or if you can earn at least the minimum income levels set by the SSA—as we discuss next—you may not qualify for benefits.
Next, you must meet the SSA’s income test. There are different forms of income the SSA considers part of substantial gainful activity income. If you exceed the limits for substantial gainful activity, you may be unable to qualify for SSDI.
You typically must inform SSA of any other benefits you may be receiving with your SSDI application, such as federal compensation benefits, workers’ compensation payouts, or military/VA benefits.
You may be able to receive SSDI benefits until you hit retirement age. At that point, you may become eligible for Social Security Retirement (SSR) benefits.
Employment and Eligibility for SSDI
You must have worked long enough as well as recently enough in a job covered by Social Security if you are to be eligible for SSDI benefits. By earning special credits that are based on your annual earnings, you can work towards the credit limit you need to be eligible for benefits.
The credit limit varies based on your age, your income, and when you suffered a disability, but you typically need 40 credits to be eligible for benefits, with half of these credits earned over the 10 years prior to your injury.
There is no requirement to have accumulated Social Security work credits to qualify for SSI benefits, however.
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How Long SSDI Benefits May Last
If you qualify, your SSDI benefits may continue until you reach retirement age, at which point Social Security Retirement benefits may begin. Otherwise, your SSDI benefits may continue unless:
- The medical condition for which you were deemed eligible for benefits improves and you are no longer classified as disabled
- You return to the workforce and earn more income than the SSA’s substantial gainful activity limits
According to the SSA, you must report any changes to your income when you are receiving benefits. Becoming incarcerated for more than 30 days can also affect your benefits.
Applying for Benefits
You can file online for SSDI benefits with the SSA online. When filing for SSI benefits, you must contact your local SSA office to file an application over the phone or in person. You may need:
- Proof of income
- Details on other benefits you may be receiving
- Medical evidence of your disability
- Proof of U.S. citizenship
- Birth certificate
- Military discharge or VA benefits paperwork, if any
It helps to prepare things beforehand, so be sure to calculate your qualifying income and to have medical proof of your disability before applying, since these are the two main factors on which the SSA’s determination of your case will be based.
We Are a Call Away
The legal team at Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC may be able to assist you with your Social Security Disability benefits application. We help our clients in Rutherfordton, North Carolina apply for and appeal rejections of both SSDI and SSI.
Please contact Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC at (828) 286-3866 to learn more in a free consultation with a member of our team. We may be able to help you understand the guidelines for Social Security Disability that pertain to your case, answer your questions, and give you more details on our services.