In order to be eligible to receive social security disability (SSD) benefits, you must meet the qualifications for one of the disability programs offered by the federal social security administration:
1) SSD, also referred to as social security disability insurance (SSDI), or 2) supplemental security income (SSI).
Both SSD and SSI programs are governed by the social security administration, and both are meant to offer financial assistance to those who are disabled. However, past work history and earnings, as well as the value of your current assets, will determine if you are qualified to apply for benefits under either program.
The social security disability insurance program is provided for by Title II of the Social Security Act. It functions very much like any insurance policy, in that you must have contributed a certain amount to the fund through past paycheck deductions (in this case, social security taxes) in order to receive benefits. Also, as with other insurance policies, your SSDI coverage will lapse if you do not continue to contribute. However, the social security administration does not measure work in hours, but in something called work credits. How are credits computed you may ask? Anyone who works earns one work credit for every one thousand dollars they earn in three consecutive months, for a maximum of four work credits per year, although this number may be periodically recalculated due to reflect inflation. Most claimants filing for SSD will be required to have earned 20 work credits in the 10 years prior to filing the application, and earned a total of 40 work credits (work credits are calculated differently for some segments of the population, such as veterans and those who are blind). To sum it up, if you have never worked or have not earned enough work credits in the past 10 years, you are not eligible for SSD.
The supplemental security income program, or SSI, is provided for by title XVI (16) of the Social Security Act. SSI does not have any work credit requirement, but in order to qualify for this disability program you must demonstrate that you do not currently earn more than a set amount of money per month. Social security sets a dollar amount that a disabled person is allowed to earn and still be eligible for benefits. Anyone receiving more than this amount each month is said to be engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA), and is not eligible for either disability program, SSD or SSI. Like work credits, SGA may be recalculated to reflect inflation, and those who are legally blind are allowed to a higher SGA. Unlike SSDI claimants, those applying for SSI benefits must meet the additional requirement of demonstrating that the value of their total assets, excluding one car, does not exceed $2,000.
Those claimants who meet the financial qualifications for either social security program may file a disability application, after which they must begin to gather evidence to demonstrate to the disability examiner assigned to the case that they meet the medical qualifications.