When Can You Apply for Social Security disability?

When an illness or injury leads to a disabling condition, the stress of dealing with the situation and loss of income can cause confusion about what to do next. Losing the ability to work makes it that much harder to be self-sufficient and support a spouse and children. However, there are government programs to help with income when an individual can no longer work because of a disability. Sometimes, individuals who are eligible for payments wait too long to apply for benefits, causing delays in the payments they are entitled to. It is important to understand how the Social Security disability program works and when to make a claim.

What can I do if I become disabled and can no longer work?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has programs, which can provide you with monthly payments, to aid individuals with medical conditions severe enough to prevent them from working for at least a year. A disabling condition is defined as one that prohibits you from performing the physical and mental activities required to do your job, which the SSA describes as Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). In 2021, a worker could not earn more than $1,310 per month, or $2,190 per month if the worker is blind. There are a wide range of conditions that may qualify you for benefits. Some of the most common are musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis, mental disorders like depression, and nervous system disorders like epilepsy.

What programs are available to help people with disabilities?

Most workers are familiar with the Social Security benefits know they will receive benefits when they reach retirement age. But Social Security has benefits for workers who become disabled before they reach retirement. Workers who pay Social Security taxes (FICA, or SECA if self-employed) contribute to the Social Security Disability Insurance program. If a worker earns enough credits through their work history, they are eligible to receive benefits as long as their medical condition qualifies.

If an individual with a disability has not earned enough Social Security credits to be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance, there is a program called Supplemental Security Income. This program is for adults and children with limited resources. It is funded separately from Social Security by general funds such as personal income taxes.

How do I know if I am eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance?

In order to be eligible, an applicant must have accumulated 40 Social Security credits from working and contributing Social Security taxes. A worker can accumulate a maximum of four credits per year, so in general, a work history of at least ten years is required, but not full-time work. For example, in 2022, in order to earn four credits, a worker has to make $6040. An applicant also needs to have recent work history. Twenty of the 40 credits must be earned within the last 10 years before becoming disabled. For younger workers, they may be eligible with fewer credits.

Can my family also receive benefits?

When a worker qualifies for Social Security Disability Insurance,
certain family members may also be eligible for benefits
on their Social Security record. Each qualifying family member may receive 50% of the amount of the applicant’s payment, up to a limit. Generally, that is 150 to 180 percent of the applicant’s benefit payment.

they are caring for a child under the age of 16, or under the age of 22 if they have a disability.
A divorced spouse can also be eligible if they are over age 62, unmarried, married to the applicant for at least 10 years, and not eligible for a higher Social Security payment based on someone else’s work history.

A child of the applicant (biological child, adopted child, stepchild or dependent grandchild) may be able to receive payments. However, they must be unmarried and under age 18. If they are age 19, they must be a full-time student up to grade 12. They can be older if they have a disability that started before age 22.

When should I file an application with Social Security?

As soon as a medical condition prevents an individual from working, they should apply for Social Security disability benefits. Some applicants make two key mistakes that lead to waiting too long. The first is waiting for five months before submitting their application. The five-month time period is the time between the application being approved and the first benefit payment from Social Security Disability Insurance. However, there is no need to wait to submit the application.

Some applicants also confuse the one-year requirement. In order for a disabling condition to qualify, it must prevent the applicant from working for at least a year. The applicant does not have to be disabled for a year before applying for benefits in order to be eligible.

What information do I need to apply?

In order to submit an application for Social Security disability benefits,
key information and documents are essential.
The applicant must provide basic personal information like their address, date of birth and marital status. Employment history from the past two years, including contact details of employers, is also required, as well as detailed information of the description of the kind of work you have performed and the date your condition stopped you from working. Finally, documentation about medical professionals who have diagnosed and treated your condition, such as primary care physicians, specialists, hospitals, and information about medical tests, treatments, and prescription medications. Applications can be made online, by phone, or in person. Without accurate and complete information, the claim can be denied, so it is always best to have the assistance of a legal expert when preparing the application.
If you become disabled and can no longer work, you should apply for benefits as soon as possible. But dealing with the other circumstances affected by your medical condition are likely to be overwhelming and impact your ability to prepare your application. Don’t let delays prevent you from receiving the benefits you deserve. This is why you should always consult a top-rated legal expert to navigate the process. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.


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