When we are young, very few people expect they’ll one day become disabled and incapable of working, but it happens to a very high percentage of Americans. One can become disabled to the point where they cannot work when they are injured in a car accident, a workplace accident, when they suffer from an occupational disease, when they’re injured in some other accident, or when they are afflicted with serious medical conditions, such as cancer.
Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) collects Social Security taxes out of people’s paychecks to go toward Social Security retirement benefits, but they are also collected to go toward disability benefits in the event a worker is disabled and can’t work – these are known as “Social Security Disability” benefits or SSDI.
What it Takes to Qualify for Disability
Not everyone qualifies for SSDI benefits. In order for a worker to qualify for disability benefits, first, he or she must have worked in jobs that were covered by Social Security. For instance, if a worker was paid “under the table” or if they were paid cash, then Social Security taxes would not have been taken from their pay, and therefore, the worker may not qualify for disability benefits.
“The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits,” according to the SSA.
Second, the worker must have a serious medical condition that meets SSA’s definition of a disability. Usually, this means the condition is serious and it is expected to last one year or longer or result in death. If the worker can engage in easier work than what they did before the injury, they may not qualify for disability benefits. To qualify, they must not be able to perform any type of work, even if it’s relatively easy like answering phones.
If someone starts receiving disability benefits and they reach retirement age, their disability benefits will automatically convert to retirement benefits, however, their monthly benefit amount will remain the same.