Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI is part of the Social Security program run by the federal government. Almost all workers in the United States can get it. But you must be able to prove two things to get benefits:

  • You can’t work because of a health problem, and you won’t be able to work for a long time.
  • You have a long enough history of working and paying into Social Security

Will My Medical Condition Qualify Me for SSDI Benefits?

SSDI benefits aren’t just for people with one kind of ailment. The most important thing is that your condition must be so bad that you can’t work. 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will decide if your condition meets this standard. As long as a doctor has given you a diagnosis, you will always be able to get benefits for a few health problems. 

Some examples are multiple sclerosis, cancer, and some autoimmune disorders.

Most people’s circumstances aren’t black and white. Not always, but sometimes, conditions are so bad that you can’t work. For example, most people with heart disease can keep living their everyday lives, but some can’t work or do anything that makes them tired. 

These are called “disabling conditions” by the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you have a disabling condition, you will need to give a lot more information to get benefits. There are three main things you will have to show:

  • Your illness is fatal or will last for at least a year.
  • You can’t go back to your old job because of your health.
  • You can’t do any other work. For example, you probably wouldn’t get SSDI benefits if you could no longer work in construction but could still work a desk job.

What Kind of Work History Will I Need to Qualify for SSDI?

SSDI is paid for by the taxes you pay to Social Security. Everyone who makes a living in the U.S. pays these taxes in their paychecks. You can only get SSDI benefits if you have paid into Social Security. The number of “work credits” you have earned by paying into the system determines your eligibility.

How many work credits you get depends on how much money you make, but you can get up to four each year. So to get SSDI, you need at least 40 work credits over your whole life.

At least 20 of your credits must have been earned in the last ten years. So, you might be able to get benefits even if you only worked part-time or were out of work for a while.

If you don’t qualify for SSDI because of your work history, you might still be able to apply for SSI, which is a similar program that gives you money based on how much you make.

How Do I Apply for SSDI Benefits?

You must apply with the SSA. You’ll need to provide information and documents about your medical condition, including: 

  • A diagnosis from your doctor
  • A statement from your doctor about your ability to keep working
  • An evaluation from an occupational specialist 

The SSA usually turns down applications the first time they are sent in.

You do have the right to appeal, though. Your denial letter will explain why your application was turned down, and the appeal gives you a chance to make a stronger case with better proof. An attorney can help you put together your appeal.

If your appeal doesn’t work, you can try again, but you won’t get benefits while you wait to appeal, which usually takes months. To avoid this, you need to make your case as strong as possible early on. A lawyer specializing in Social Security Disability Insurance can help you put together a claim or an appeal that gives the SSA the proof it needs.

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