Social Security Disability Benefits: Eligibility Criteria and Requirements

Did you know that Social Security Disability Benefits provide financial help and support to millions of Americans with qualifying disabilities? If you’re interested in learning more about these essential benefits, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll discuss the various eligibility criteria and requirements and some essential details about the application process.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

Work Credits

To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you must have enough work credits. But what are work credits? In short, these are the “units” you accumulate based on your yearly wages or self-employment income. In general, you can earn up to 4 credits each year.

For example, In 2023, you earn one credit for every $1,640 you make in wages or self-employment income. Once you’ve made $6,560, you’ve gained all 4 credits for the year. It’s essential to note that the number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when your disability begins.

Disability Requirements

It’s important to understand that Social Security’s definition of disability differs from other programs. They only provide benefits for total disability, not for partial or short-term disability. To be eligible for benefits, you must meet specific criteria:

  1. You cannot work and engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) due to your medical condition.
  2. You cannot perform work you did previously or adjust to other work because of your medical condition.
  3. Your condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least a year or will result in death.

The Disability Determination Process

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

To determine if you have a qualifying disability, Social Security first looks at whether you are working and earning above a specific threshold called Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). In 2023, if you make more than $1,470 per month ($2,460 if you’re blind), you generally cannot be considered to have a qualifying disability in most cases.

Five-Step Process to Determine Qualifying Disability

Social Security uses a systematic five-step process to evaluate your disability eligibility. These steps include:

  1. Employment status: Are you working? Your application may be denied if you are working and your earnings exceed the SGA limit. If you’re not working or your earnings are below the SGA limit, your application proceeds to the next step.
  2. Severity of the medical condition: Does your condition significantly limit your ability to perform basic work-related activities? If not, you won’t be considered to have a qualifying disability. If yes, you proceed to the next step.
  3. Disability listing: Is your condition on the disabling list provided by Social Security? If it’s not on the list, they will decide if it’s as severe as a condition on the list. If your condition is severe enough, the process moves forward. Otherwise, your claim may be denied.
  4. Work history: Social Security will assess if your medical impairments prevent you from performing your previous work. If you cannot do your past work, move on to the next step.
  5. Other types of work: They will examine if you can do any other work despite your impairments by considering your medical conditions, age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills.

Social Security Disability Advocate

If you feel overwhelmed by the disability benefits application process, consider enlisting the help of a Social Security Disability advocate. These professionals, such as Binder and Binder attorneys for asthma disability, are experienced in navigating the application process and can improve your chances of success.

Disability Advocacy

Fibromyalgia Disability

Having a condition that doesn’t always fit into straightforward categories, like fibromyalgia, can make disability advocacy even more crucial. Fibromyalgia sufferers experience chronic pain, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties that may impair their ability to work. Disability advocates can help build a case for individuals with this condition to receive the benefits they need and deserve.

SSI for Cancer

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are available for people with limited income and resources who have a disability such as cancer. Some cancer patients may qualify for SSI without meeting the strict criteria for SSDI benefits. Therefore, disability advocates can be invaluable in helping those with disabilities like cancer understand their eligibility and navigate the application process.


Navigating the world of Social Security Disability Benefits can be challenging, especially when dealing with the complexities of eligibility criteria, work credits, and various medical conditions. With the help of disability advocates and a thorough understanding of the process, individuals can increase their chances of receiving the necessary benefits. Remember, the key is to be proactive, research, and seek assistance when necessary. With the right approach, you’ll be well on your way to securing the disability benefits you deserve.