How does the SSA decide if a person is eligible to receive SSDI?

If a person meets that Social Security Administration’s definition of disability and has enough work credits, they may be eligible to receive benefits.

According to the Social Security Administration, a person is disabled if he or she suffers from a mental or physical impairment that will likely result in death, or is expected to last for more than a year. A person in Missouri or Illinois seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits must show that he or she is an insured and disabled worker who is under the age of full retirement.

Work requirements

In addition to meeting SSA's definition of disability, those who wish to receive SSDI benefits must have worked recently and long enough to qualify. To determine this, SSA assigns work credits depending on the person's total annual income.

Although the amount needed for a credit changes by year, those seeking SSDI benefits can receive up to four of these credits annually. For example, for the year 2014, a person needs to earn $1,200 in wages to qualify for one credit. The amount will be $1,220 in 2015.

However, the number of credits people need to acquire SSDI benefits depends on how old they were when they became disabled. This means that younger workers may still be eligible to receive benefits even if they have a fewer credits.

The five questions

Once it is determined that a person has enough work to qualify for benefits, SSA uses a process involving five questions to decide whether or not benefits will be awarded. These five questions include the following:

  • Is the person currently working?
  • Does the condition interfere with standard work-related activities?
  • Is the mental or physical disability the person is suffering from found in the Listing of Impairments, an index of very serious medical conditions?
  • Does the condition prohibit the person from performing the work-related duties that he or she accomplished previously?
  • Is the person seeking SSDI benefits able to perform any other type of work?

To qualify for SSDI benefits, a person must meet the specific criteria outlined under each of these questions. For example, SSA states that a disabled worker who earns more than $1,070 a month in 2014 or $1,090 in 2015 will typically not be eligible for these benefits. If a person exceeds this income limit, the determination process will end and SSA will not go on to decide whether or not the condition interferes with the person's regular work activities.

Understanding the criteria SSA uses to determine if a person is disabled can be complicated and confusing. If you want to know whether or not you qualify for SSDI benefits, speak with an attorney who can help you understand these guidelines.

Keywords: Social Security, disability, benefits