How much work do I have to have done to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits?

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security. You can earn up to a maximum of four credits per year. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels rise. Family members who qualify for benefits on your work record do not need work credits.
The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on your age when you became disabled. Generally you need 20 credits earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you became disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.


How do I apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?

You should apply at any Social Security office as soon as you become disabled. You may file by phone, mail or by visiting the nearest office. Note that, while you may receive back benefits from the date you became disabled, they are limited to one year before the date you filed for benefits.

Who decides if I am Disabled?

After helping you complete your application, the Social Security office will review it to see if you meet the basic requirements for disability benefits. They will look at whether you have worked long enough and recently enough, your age and, if you are applying for benefits as a family member, and your relationship to the worker.
The office then will send your application to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office in your state. The DDS will decide whether you are disabled under the Social Security law.
The rules for determining disability are different from the disability rules in other government and private programs.


Are benefits taxed?

Some people have to pay federal income taxes on their Social Security benefits. This usually happens only if your total income is high. At the end of the year, you will receive a Social Security Benefit Statement (Form SSA-1099) showing the amount of benefits you received. Use the statement to complete your federal income tax return if any of your benefits are subject to tax.

Can I get medicare if I’m Disabled?

Social Security will automatically enroll you in Medicare after you get disability benefits for two years.
Medicare has two parts:  hospital insurance and medical insurance. Hospital insurance helps you pay hospital bills and some follow-up care. The taxes you paid while you were working financed this coverage, so it’s free. The other part of Medicare, medical insurance, helps pay doctors’ bills and other services. You will pay a monthly premium for this coverage if you want it. Most people have both parts of Medicare.

Is my case reviewed?

In general, your benefits will continue as long as you are disabled. However, we will review your case periodically to see if you are still disabled. The frequency of the reviews depends on the expectation of recovery.
If medical improvement is “expected,” your case normally will be reviewed within six to 18 months.
If medical improvement is “possible,” your case normally will be reviewed no sooner than three years.
If medical improvement is “not expected,” your case normally will be reviewed no sooner than seven years.

What can cause benefits to stop?

There are two things that can cause Social Security to decide that you are no longer disabled and to stop your benefits.

  1. Your benefits will stop if you work at a level considered to be “substantial.” Usually, average earnings of $800 or more a month are considered substantial.
  2. Your disability benefits also will stop if it is determined that your medical condition has improved to the point that you are no longer disabled.

You must promptly report any improvement in your condition, your return to work and certain other events as long as you are receiving benefits.