What You Should Know about Social Security Disability Benefits
If you should find yourself disabled and need to apply for government benefits, the type of benefits you’re most likely to apply for are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. SSDI benefits can continue for as long as you are unable to work and your condition has not improved.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines “disabled” as being unable to work for one year or longer as a result of your condition or that your condition is expected to cause your death. You also must be unable to do the work you had been doing at the time you became disabled and your condition prohibits you from being able to do any other kind of work. The Social Security Administration also has a list of conditions that are severe enough that they automatically consider you disabled if you have one of them. Social Security doesn’t offer benefits for short-term disabilities.
Not only do you have to meet Social Security’s criteria for being disabled, you also need to have earned a certain amount of work credits. You earn work credits by working and paying into Social Security long enough to have earned a certain amount of money. The amount of money you need to earn one credit varies from year to year. In 2014, you needed to earn $1,200 to earn one credit, but in 2015, that amount will go up to $1,220. You can earn no more than four credits per year and the amount of credits you need to qualify for SSDI benefits depends on how old you were at the time you became disabled. To find out how many credits you need to have earned, consult this chart on the SSA website.
You can also qualify for SSDI benefits under a few special circumstances. SSDI benefits can help if you’re either legally blind or have vision low enough to prevent you from being able to work. To be considered legally blind, your vision needs to be unable to be restored to better than 20/100 in your strongest eye or if your field of vision is 20 degrees or less in your strongest eye. If you are the widow or widower of a deceased worker who worked long enough to earn Social Security benefits, you can apply for survivors benefits when you reach the full retirement age of 67, but in some cases, it can be done as early as age 60 for reduced benefits.
If a child meets the SSA’s definition of being disabled and the disability began before they were 22 years old, they may be able to receive benefits based on their parents’ earning history. SSDI benefits for children can last until they are 18 years old or 19 if they are enrolled in school full time. Adult children who were disabled before the age of 22 may be eligible for child’s benefits if their parent is either deceased or starts collecting retirement benefits. To get child’s benefits, an adult child must be at least 18 years old and unmarried.
Disabled veterans may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits that are different from those offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. If you’re a veteran who has a compensation rating of 100% from the VA may be able to expedite the SSDI application process.