Most of us work hard; whether that means sitting at a computer all day or lifting heavy things in the blazing sun. Every job carries its own particular challenges, and each career wears on the body in different ways. Sometimes, things happen that cause us to become unable to do the things we used to do. When physical or mental problems begin to arise and make work more difficult, people begin to wonder, “am I disabled?” Within the context of the Social Security Administration, this question can have a very specific answer. Here are a few of the important requirements that Social Security focuses on:
- You are not currently working and have not been able to work full-time for a 12-month period of time. This 12-month period can be fulfilled during the time period when the application is pending or when a claimant is awaiting a hearing. Since the process takes some time, you need not wait until the 12thmonth of being unable to work – sometimes you may be able to apply prior to this timeframe. But, there must be a 12-month period of time where a disability has made full-time work impossible.
- You haven’t made more than approximately 1200 dollars per month any month during this 12-month time period. Aside from working full-time, the Social Security Administration has a cap on the amount of money you are able to make per month and still claim disability. NOTE: this does not include long term disability payments, or other insurance type benefits. This limit applies to actual work for pay, i.e. employment.
- There are specific medical, mental, or physical impairments that keep you from being able to work. These impairments need to be documented by medical professionals to some degree. Just because you don’t have the money or insurance to visit a doctor every month doesn’t mean you can’t get disability, but there needs to be some medical diagnosis or diagnoses that the SSA can look at in order to corroborate the claim of disability. Occasionally, a claimant’s medical records will meet a “listing” that the SSA has recognized as a per se disability. This isn’t common, but it does happen from time to time.
- You should have a work history. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, a claimant must have a work history that can be verified. The SSA will only look at the past 15 years of work history, and a claimant will need to have at least one job that qualifies as “past relevant work.” Past relevant work is work that amounts to more income than the approximately $1200.00 per month discussed earlier in this article. Most people who have worked all their lives will have no trouble meeting this past relevant work requirement. If a claimant has never been able to work or has not worked at all over the past 15 years, another form of assistance is available to disabled people – this is called SSI or supplemental security income. This is a bit different than SSD or social security disability.
- You would struggle with doing anykind of work full-time, not only the work you’ve done in the past. This is the basis for most social security disability awards for all claimants under age 50. Even claimants over 50 should hold the sincere belief that their medical impairments would hamper any kind of work at all, on a full-time basis. This could be because pain hinders focus or concentration, or for any other reason. One good exercise is to imagine the simplest desk job that exists, then imagine being at that job 8 hours per day, 40 hours per week, no extra breaks, no missed work, no leaving early, and being required to stay totally focused on the task at hand. Usually, someone who is disabled will begin to see multiple problems that would come up due to their medical impairments even at a simple, sedentary job.