Qualifying for Disability - How to Qualify for Benefits
Qualifying for disability benefits from the social security administration (either social security disability or SSI) involves satisfying medical and non-medical requirements.
For title II disability benefits, otherwise known as social security disability benefits, the non-medical requirements (for qualifying for disability) regard earned income. In other words, to be eligible to apply for disability or to continue receiving disability benefits after a case has been approved, an individual cannot earn more than a specified amount of gross monthly income (this amount is known as SGA or substantial gainful activity and the amount changes yearly).
For title 16 disability benefits, also known as SSI or supplemental security income, the non-medical disability requirements include consideration of earned income but also assets, a.k.a. resources. Qualifying for disability benefits under the SSI program in this sense means not having countable assets greater than two thousand dollars (countable assets, by the way, do not include the real property that a person lives in or their primary vehicle).
The medical requirements for qualifying for disability essentially boil down to meeting the social security administration's definition of disability.
For adults, the definition states that a claimant will be considered to be disabled if he or she is found to be unable to perform substantial gainful work activity due to a physical or mental impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for twelve months (continuous months) or possibly result in death.
The social security definition of disability can be difficult to comprehend, particularly the reference to substantial gainful work activity. However, this aspect of the definition of disability simply means that a person can work and apply for disability, or work and receive disability...as long as their monthly gross earned income falls below a certain threshold referred to as SGA (the definition for SGA can be found in the link three paragraphs up).
However, qualifying for disability is not as simple as the social security definition of disability might imply. The process of actually determining whether or not a claimant's condition will last 12 months (if it hasn't already) and the process of determining what type of work a claimant might be able to engage in (or not engage in) is somewhat detailed.
In essence, qualifying for disability means that a social security disability or SSI claimant will have successfully met the following disability criteria:
1. They will have a condition that is considered severe.
2. They will have a condition that has lasted 12 months or can be expected to last 12 months.
3. Their condition will limit them to the extent that they are considered unable to return to their past work.
4. Their condition will limit them to the extent that, in addition to being unable to return to their past work, they will be considered unable to perform other types of work.
Qualifying for disability can be difficult at the intial application level and 70% of cases are denied at that level. Qualifying for disability at the first appeal level (known as a reconsideration or review, depending on the state in which you live) can be even more difficult as roughly 85% of such disability appeals are also turned down. However, at a social security hearing for disability benefits, a claimant who has been previously denied will typically stand their best chance of being approved, particularly if they are represented by an attorney or non-attorney representative.
Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog
Appealing a denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
What happens when a social security disability claim gets denied