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How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits

Posted on behalf of Phillips Law Group on May 22, 2017 in Social Security Disability

man sitting in a wheelchairIndividuals who are disabled and unable to work may be entitled to receive monthly financial benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The SSA has strict requirements for those who qualify for Social Security disability benefits, outlined below. If you need assistance filing an application or appealing a denied claim, contact our Social Security Disability attorneys as soon as possible.

What is Your Work History?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a fixed monthly income that provides partial lost wages for the duration of a disability that is expected to last at least one year. Benefits are acquired overtime as you work and pay into Social Security.

Each year, you earn work credits based on your annual wages or self-employment income. You are able to earn a maximum of four credits each year based on your annual wages or income through self-employment.

As of 2017, one credit is equal to $1,300 of your quarterly income, which means your annual income must be at least $5,200 in order to earn four work credits throughout the year.

Depending on your age, you must have earned 20 to 40 credits over the course of your employment history to be eligible for disability benefits.

If you are older than 31, at least 20 of those credits must have been earned within your last 10 years of employment prior to the development of your disability.

Is Your Condition a Disability?

To qualify for disability benefits, you must have a disability that meets SSA standards for permanent disability. SSA defines a permanent disability as one that:

  • Prevents you from performing functions necessary to your previous job
  • Prevents you from performing other type of work
  • Affects you for at least one year or is expected to result in your death

The SSA Blue Book of impairment listings details the requirements for obtaining disability benefits for several conditions and illnesses. Applicants must prove their condition meets the terms of a listed condition or show their condition is equal in severity.

If you do not meet the requirements of a disability listing, you must prove to the SSA that your condition prevents you from being able to work.

When evaluating your case, the SSA will consider if you are able to perform any type of work, including one that differs from your previous occupation. It will determine this by reviewing an applicant’s:

  • Age
  • Medical condition
  • Work experience
  • Education

The SSA will decide if any skills you possess are transferable to other lines of employment that can be performed even with your current disability. If it believes you are able to perform other forms of work, your application will be denied.

What is Your Income?

If you do not meet the work credit requirements for SSDI benefits and have limited income, you may be able to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) instead.

SSI is a benefits program that provides financial support for basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing. SSI is funded through general tax revenues and is reserved for people who meet one of the following requirements:

  • 65-years or older
  • Permanently disabled
  • Legally blind

To qualify for SSI benefits, you must meet the SSA definition of disability as outlined above, earn a limited income and own very few assets.


The SSA considers an individual’s income to include:

  • Wages earned through employment
  • Earnings from self-employment
  • Government benefits
  • Money and resources provided by family members
  • Spousal income available to you

SSI does not count these as a portion of your earned income:

  • Your first $65 of earnings
  • Your first $20 of unearned income
  • Food stamps
  • Government need-based assistance
  • Refunds from income taxes

Your total annual income cannot exceed the federal benefit rate, which is the monthly maximum SSI benefits eligible individuals can receive. As of 2017, the federal benefit rate is:

  • $735 for individuals
  • $1,103 for married couples
  • $368 for essential persons (children)


You must also own limited assets and have access to very little resources. Limited assets can refer to anything that can be defined by a cash value, such as:

  • Vehicles (under rare circumstances)
  • Pensions
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Bank accounts
  • 401Ks
  • Jewelry
  • Land

In order to qualify for SSI benefits, the total value of all assets in your possession must be lower than $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for married couples.

However, the SSA will not consider certain possessions, such as your home and the vehicle you drive, when evaluating the assets your own.

Our Social Security disability lawyers can help you determine the estimated value of your assets and whether you to qualify for SSI benefits.

Contact Our Social Security Disability Claim Attorneys

Social Security disability claims, unfortunately, can be very difficult to validate and are often denied in Arizona.

For this reason, it is often in your best interest to consult our experienced attorneys who can help you properly file a claim, ensure all proper documentation is organized and available, and that each deadline is met.

We can review your claim during a free, no obligation consultation to determine if you meet the requirements to apply for SSDI or SSI benefits.

At Phillips Law Group, we never charge our clients upfront for our services. Our attorneys work only on a contingency fee basis, which means we only charge you if we recover the benefits you deserve.

Call 1-800-706-3000 if you are applying for or have been denied Social Security benefits.

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