Social Security Disability Benefits
Social Security pays benefits to people who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death.
Federal law requires this very strict definition of disability. While some programs give money to people with partial disability or short-term disability, Social Security does not.
Certain members of your family may qualify for benefits based on your work.
- Your spouse, if he or she is 62 or older;
- Your spouse, at any age, if he or she is caring for a child of yours who is younger than age 16 or disabled;
- Your unmarried child, including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild or grandchild. The child must be younger than age 18 or younger than 19 if in elementary or secondary school full-time; and
- Your unmarried child, age 18 or older, if he or she has a disability that started before age 22. (The child’s disability also must meet the definition of disability for adults.)
Earnings Requirement for Disability Benefits
In general, to get disability benefits, you must meet two different earnings tests:
- A “recent work” test based on your age at the time you became disabled; and
- A “duration of work” test to show that you worked long enough under Social Security.
- Certain blind workers have to meet only the “duration of work” test.
The table below shows the rules for how much work you need for the “recent work” test based on your age when your disability began. The rules in this table are based on the calendar quarter in which you turned or will turn a certain age.
The calendar quarters are:
First Quarter: January 1 through March 31
Second Quarter: April 1 through June 30
Third Quarter: July 1 through September 30
Fourth Quarter: October 1 through December 31
Information Necessary When Applying for Disability
You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. It can take a long time to process an application for disability benefits (three to five months).
The information you will need includes:
- Your Social Security number;
- Your birth or baptismal certificate;
- Names, addresses and phone numbers of the doctors, caseworkers, hospitals and clinics that took care of you and dates of your visits;
- Names and dosage of all the medicine you take; side effects you experience when taking the medication
- Medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics and caseworkers that you already have in your possession;
- Laboratory and test results;
- A summary of where you worked and the kind of work you did; and
- A copy of your most recent W-2 Form (Wage and Tax Statement) or, if you are self-employed, your federal tax return for the past year.
In addition to the basic application for disability benefits, there are other forms you will need to fill out. One form collects information about your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. Other forms give doctors, hospitals and other healthcare professionals who have treated you permission to send us information about your medical condition.
Do not delay applying for benefits if you cannot get all of this information together quickly. We will help you get it.
Your application will be reviewed to make sure you meet some basic requirements for disability benefit and whether you worked enough years to qualify.
Social security will review any current work activities. If you meet these requirements, they will send your application to the Disability Determination Services office in your state.
This state agency completes the disability decision. Doctors and disability specialists in the state agency ask your doctors for information about your condition. They will consider all the facts in your case. They will use the medical evidence from your doctors and hospitals, clinics or institutions where you have been treated and all other information.
They will ask your doctors:
- What your medical condition is;
- When your medical condition began;
- How your medical condition limits your activities;
- What the medical tests have shown; and
- What treatment you have received.
They also will ask the doctors for information about your ability to do work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, lifting, carrying and remembering instructions. Your doctors are not asked to decide if you are disabled.
The state agency staff may need more medical information before they can decide if you are disabled. If more information is not available from your current medical sources, the state agency may ask you to go for a special examination. Sometimes the exam may have to be done by someone other than your doctor. Social Security will pay for the exam and for some of the related travel costs.