Before We Talk About Your Disability...

By Barbara J. Artuso, Esq.

Did you know that when you apply for Social Security Disability/Supplemental Security Income benefits, your medical condition is not the first issue that must be addressed?

Instead, in order to receive disability benefits under one of these two programs administered by the federal government, financial eligibility must first be established. Even though it seems harsh, there are some individuals whose financial circumstances do not qualify them for either program, and they cannot receive disability benefits regardless of their medical condition.

Supplemental Security Income is a needs-based program. You must meet certain income and asset guidelines in order to be financially eligible to apply.

Eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits is related to work history. When you work, and pay FICA taxes, you are given credit toward eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits. In 2004, you need $900 (increased from $890 in 2003) in gross income to receive credit for a quarter of employment. You can earn credit for up to four quarters of coverage each year, and the credits need not be earned in a particular quarter. You can work a few months in one year, make four times the amount necessary to earn one quarter of coverage and earn all four quarters of coverage for that year within those few months.

When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, your work record is examined to determine whether you have enough quarters of coverage to be financially eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. Generally speaking, you need to have worked 20 out of the last 40 quarters (5 out of the last 10 years) in order to be financially eligible to apply for Social Security Disability benefits.

However, there are different rules, requiring fewer quarters of coverage, for younger individuals. In addition, if it has been more than five years since you have worked, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you can prove that you were disabled within the five-year period after you stopped working.

If you have questions about your financial eligibility for disability benefits under the complex rules and regulations of either of these two programs, please contact our Social Security department via email or phone us at 724-837-0080 in Greensburg or toll free at 888-534-6016, and we will review your individual circumstances with you in detail.

For more information on Social Security, please visit our expansive Social Security Information Center or our Social Security Frequently Asked Questions.

Related articles about Social Security Disability:

I Can't Return To My Job... What Now?

A Summary: Long-Term and Short-Term Disability

SSI and SSD - What's the Difference?

Why your Neighbor's Sister's Son is Getting 'Disability' and You're Not

What's the Connection between Social Security Disability and Private Disability Insurance?

My Doctor Says I'm Disabled. Why Isn't that Enough?

How Workers' Compensation Benefits Are Calculated

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