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Before Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security provides financial support to millions of American workers, primarily through retirement benefits. There is another way Social Security provides support if something unexpected happens and a serious medical condition prevents you from working and being able to support yourself and your family.

You may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, which replace a portion of lost income when a worker becomes seriously disabled. Social Security uses three key factors we use to determine if you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits and if you can remain on Social Security disability benefits (known as a CDR):

You must have a lasting medical condition so severe that it prevents you from doing the work that you did in the past or adjusting to any other types of work.

Your physical or mental impairment(s) must have lasted or be expected to last at least a year or result in death and remain ongoing if you are having your case reviewed; and

You must have worked long enough — and recently enough — in jobs covered by Social Security (which means jobs where you earn Social Security credits for working).

To become eligible for Social Security benefits by working and paying FICA taxes, which translate into Social Security “credits.” How many credits you need to receive disability benefits depends on how old you are when you become disabled.

For example, if you become disabled at age 31 or older, you generally must have earned at least 20 credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled. Twenty credits are equal to five years of substantial earnings. Younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.


For those individuals who have not worked enough to qualify for Social Security benefits they may be eligible for help through our Supplemental Security Income program, or “SSI.” SSI provides financial assistance to disabled children and adults, as well as the aged and blind people, who have little or no income or resources.

The same key factors apply to meet the definition of disability as needed for Social Security disability benefits. Also if you are on SSI you can have your case reviewed CDR.

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