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Qualifying for Social Security

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration has strict guidelines that one must meet in order to qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits.

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must

  1. Have worked long enough and recently enough in jobs covered by Social Security.
  2. Have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability.

Work Requirement

In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have worked long enough and recently enough in jobs covered by Social Security. The Social Security Administration converts these earnings into work credits. Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year.

The amount of earnings you need for a credit changes from year to year. In 2012, the Social Security Administration allowed an individual to earn one credit for each $1,130 of wages or self-employment income. Therefore, when an individual has earned $4,520, he or she earned their maximum four credits for the year.

The number of work credits you need to qualify for Social Security disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. In general, you need 40 credits. 20 of those credits need to have been earned within the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

The Social Security Administration uses two different earnings tests to determine whether you meet the work requirement to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. In general, you must meet both tests to qualify.

  1. The “recent work” test which is based on your age at the time you became disabled; and
  2. The “duration of work” test which shows that you worked long enough under Social Security.

Medical Requirement

The definition of disability under Social Security is different than other programs. It is a very strict definition and will be strictly followed. You should know that Social Security pays only for total disability. The Social Security Administration does not pay benefits for partial disability or for short-term disability.

The Social Security Administration will consider you disabled under Social Security rules if:

  • You cannot do work that you did before;
  • The Social Security Administration decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

The Social Security Administration uses a 5 step process to determine if you are disabled.

5 Step Process

  1. Are you working?
    1. If you are working in 2012 and your earnings average more than $1010 a month, you generally cannot be considered disabled.
  2. Is your condition “severe”?
    1. Your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered. If it does not, we will find that you are not disabled. If your condition does interfere with basic work-related activities, go to step 3.
  3. Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?
    1. For each of the major body systems, the Social Security Administration keeps a list of medical conditions that are so severe they automatically mean that you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, the Social Security Administration then has to decide if it is of equal severity to a medical condition that is on the list. If it is, they will find that you are disabled. If it is not, they go to Step 4.
  4. Can you do the work you did previously?
    1. If your condition is severe but not at the same or equal level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then the Social Security Administration must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If it does not, your claim will be denied. If it does, go to step 5.
  5. Can you do any other type of work?
    1. If you cannot do the work you did in the past, the Social Security Administration determines if you are able to adjust to other work. They consider your medical conditions and your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills you may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits is a complicated and difficult process. If you are have already applied for Social Security Disability benefits and have been denied but are unable to work due to a disability, call the experienced Rancho Santa Margarita Social Security Disability attorneys at Howard Law and let us help you get the benefits you deserve.