When you file for disability benefits, you must meet certain requirements set forth by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Most of these requirements pertain to the physical or mental aspect of your disability and how it affects you in your daily life. The SSA has created a list of impairments they consider disabling and, for each one, they detail the medical requirements you must meet to be considered disabled and eligible for benefits.

The SSA also has some nonmedical requirements you must meet to receive disability benefits. The three main nonmedical requirements pertain to your job history, current income, and your assets.

How Your Job History Affects Your Disability Claim

When Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must have earned enough of what the SSA calls “work credits”. As an insurance program, the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) funds SSDI. FICA is the taxes deducted from your paycheck each time you get paid. To claim SSDI, you need to have worked and paid enough of the taxes into the system.

The SSA uses a system of what they call work credits to keep track of the base amount of earnings you have paid into the system. Each year, the amount of earnings needed to receive a work credit increases in tandem with the average earnings level, but you can only receive a maximum of four credits per year.

The number of work credits you need to have to qualify for disability benefits depends upon your age:

  • If you are 23 or younger, you need at least 6 work credits earned within 3-years before the start of your disability.
  • If you are 24 to 30 years old, you need, in general, to have earned work credits for half the time between the age of 21 and the start of your disability, i.e. if you are 25, you would need to have earned 8 credits.
  • If you are 31 or older, you must, in general, have earned at least 20 work credits in the 10 years leading up to your disability.

How Your Income Affects Your Disability Claim

The SSA takes into consideration how much money you earn each month from working. They limit the amount of money you can earn each month to what they call “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). In essence, they do not consider someone who earns more than the SGA amount functionally limited enough to classify as “disabled”. Those applying for SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cannot exceed the SGA amount each month. In 2021, the SGA amount for non-blind individuals is $1,310 a month and $2,190 per month for blind individuals. The SGA limit can change each year.

How Your Assets Affect Your Disability Claim

SSI is a need-based benefit meant to help individuals 65 or older, disabled, or blind. To qualify for SSI benefits, these individuals must have a limited income and limited resources. Unlike SSDI, which only considers earned income, income for SSI eligibility includes money received from other sources like workers’ compensation, VA benefits, friends, relatives, etc. and the equivalent of any shelter or food you receive for free.

As for resources or assets, the SSA considers those to be “anything…you own that could be converted to cash and used for food or shelter.” This includes, but is not limited to:

  • cash
  • bank accounts
  • investments
  • land
  • vehicles (except one vehicle for transportation)
  • personal property (except home you live in)
  • life insurance

The resources limits are $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for couples in 2021.

Getting Help Filing Your Disability Claim

Understanding whether you meet the nonmedical requirements and the medical requirements for receiving disability can be complicated. An experienced disability attorney can help go over all of your information to help you best present your claim and even help you appeal a denial if you have received one. Brock & Stout’s disability attorneys have over 25 years of experience helping clients get approved for the disability benefits they need. Contact us today for a free evaluation to see if we can help you.