Everyone who works has to make tax contributions to the Social Security Administration (SSA) in addition to paying income taxes. Most adults will eventually claim those contributions as retirement benefits when they are over the age of 65.
However, the tiny subset of employees will need different benefits from the SSA. They may develop a severe medical condition or suffer a disabling injury in an accident, leaving them unable to work. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) helps protect those too young to retire and yet already unable to work due to medical reasons.
Applicants need to meet two specific standards established by the SSA to qualify for benefits. Determining if you meet these standards can help you decide whether to apply for benefits. How do adults qualify for SSDI?
They need to pay into the program for long enough
Only working adults who have made long-term contributions to the SSA typically qualify for disability benefits. Applicants usually need at least 40 credits accrued over the course of their working life to get SSDI benefits. At least half of those credits should be from the last 10 years.
A worker can accumulate up to four credits a year based on how much they earn. There are exceptions to this rule for younger adults who find themselves unable to work. Workers in their 20s and 30s who get seriously injured or fall ill may qualify for benefits with fewer credits.
Their medical condition must be serious enough
The SSA does provide a list of medical conditions that may qualify someone for benefits, and there are so many medical conditions that they group them by broad category. Those with issues ranging from respiratory disorders or cancer to mental health issues can potentially qualify.
The SSA doesn’t just approve people with specific conditions. It also evaluates each application on a case-by-case basis. Given that illnesses and injuries affect different people in different ways, there needs to be medical evidence that someone is completely unable to work and that their condition will last for a year or longer for them to qualify for benefits. Inadequate medical evidence may lead to a denial and then to an appeal.
Understanding the standards you have to meet to qualify for SSDI benefits will help you better manage the application process and the appeal process if necessary in your case.