If you are a worker with a qualifying disability, you may meet the requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Some of these include earning the minimum amount of work credits and having a disability listed with the Social Security Administration’s (SSA). If you meet the criteria, you can continue to get benefits until you can work regular hours again or until you reach the required age to qualify for retirement benefits.
Our attorneys know what the Social Security Administration (SSA) is looking for when they review an application for SSDI benefits. We can help you understand the requirements, review your application, and navigate the appeals process if they already denied your initial claim.
What Are the Requirements to Qualify for SSDI?
There are certain criteria you must meet to get SSDI. They are as follows:
You Must Have Earned Enough Work Credits
SSDI is a program for workers who paid into Social Security over the course of their careers. To qualify, you must have an extensive enough work history and enough recent work to earn 20 credits, depending on how old you are.
When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn these credits based on your income. The average worker earns four credits per year. For 2021, you receive one credit for each $1,470 you earn, up to the maximum of four credits. In turn, you only need to earn $5,880 to receive all four credits.
You Must Fall Below the Current Substantial Gainful Activity Limit
SSDI is not an income-based program, but the SSA has set a limit to how much you can earn from working a job and still claim to have a disability. This substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit includes only wages you gain from employment. You can subtract any disability-related costs or the expense of certain accommodations. The SGA 2021 limit is $1,310 per month for non-blind individuals, whereas blind individuals are limited at $2,190.
We can help you understand how to calculate your income, including documenting any expenses that may not need to count against you. For example, if you need to take a wheelchair-accessible cab to work every morning, we can subtract the monthly cost of this expense and document it with receipts.
We can also review your finances for other earnings we can deduct from your monthly income amount. These finances may include anything from stock dividends to the proceeds from a rental property. You can earn money from investments in addition to getting SSDI without jeopardizing your benefits.
You Must Meet the SSA’s Definition of Disabled
Often, the most difficult part of getting SSDI benefits is showing you meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled.” The SSA only pays out for those who suffer a long-term, total disability.
In general, your disability must last for a year or more – or your doctor must expect it to last for a year or more or cause your death. Then, you need to meet the criteria related to your condition outlined in the SSA’s impairment listings.
These impairment listings, sometimes called the Blue Book, divide disabilities by the body part or system affected. Some of these impairments include:
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Respiratory disorders
- Digestive system disorders
- Endocrine system disorders
- Neurological disorders
- Immune system disorders
We can help you look up your condition and understand the criteria you must meet to qualify for benefits. If you meet them, we still need to ensure the SSA receives all the information they need to approve your claim. These claims rely heavily on medical documentation from your doctor, specialists, and others who treat your condition due to the fact that you must prove that your disability is so serious that you cannot work.
In some cases, you may not be able to work but do not meet the criteria in the impairment listings. That does not mean you cannot get SSDI benefits. It does mean, however, that you will need to rely on your residual functional capacity (RFC) to qualify.
Your RFC is your ability to perform certain work-related tasks. The SSA assigns your RFC based on a review of your medical records and any supporting documentation. They may also ask you to see an independent physician for a consultative examination. If the SSA determines you cannot work your current job, any previous job, or a job that requires no specialized skills, you will likely qualify for SSDI benefits.
For a free legal consultation, call 412-661-1400
Are There Any Special Circumstances You Should Know About?
Most people who get SSDI must meet the requirements we discussed, complete an application, and wait several months to learn if the SSA approved their claim. Many receive a denial of their initial claim and must face the appeals process.
For others, though, there are special circumstances that make their process somewhat different.
SSDI Special Criteria for Blind Workers
Qualifying blind workers have special criteria for receiving SSDI. They are able to earn more at work and still qualify for benefits.
Terminally Ill SSDI Applicants May Receive Benefits Sooner
The SSA offers programs that allow those with certain serious injuries and terminal illnesses to begin receiving SSDI benefits faster. These programs give your claim priority in the review process.
When we meet to discuss your qualifications for disability benefits, we can review your situation and determine if you meet the criteria for any of these special circumstances.
What a Social Security Lawyer From Our Firm Can Do for You
Helping you determine if you qualify for SSDI and calculating your income are just two of the many tasks our lawyers will do on your behalf.
While you focus on resting and getting treatment, you can rely on your lawyer to:
- Answer any and all of your questions
- Review your application for benefits
- Handle communication with the SSA and alert you of any updates
- Track your claim
- Request a reconsideration and file an appeal if you are denied benefits
- Prepare you for a hearing, should you be asked any questions directly
- Represent you in a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
We will carry out all these responsibilities for you on a contingency-fee basis, meaning we don’t mandate any upfront or out-of-pocket costs. Our payment comes out of the financial awards that we secure for you at the end of your case.
Reviews From Social Security Clients
At our law firm, we strive to get the clients the benefits they need while suffering from a disability. Some of those who have worked with us have left reviews of their experiences.
“So we decided to call Berger and Green and from the very first phone call they helped me through every question that I was asked. All you had to do is be honest and upfront and they took it away from there.” – Beth
“But the more impressive part of it was the day of my Administrative Law Judge hearing the attorney who took my case. I was just so impressed by the amount of knowledge she knew about my case and about me, it was just overwhelming how much work she put into it.” – John
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Connect with Berger and Green Today to Further Discuss Your SSDI Application
The SSDI lawyers at Berger and Green can help you get the benefits you deserve based on your disability. Whether you need help with your initial claim or appealing a denial, we are ready to go to work for you.
Give us a call today at (412) 661-1400 to receive a free consultation.