In some circumstances, a person may be injured to the extent he or she is no longer able to work.

In that instance, it is possible an individual may want to consider applying for Social Security Disability benefits.

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. Then you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability. In general, Social Security will pay monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability. Benefits usually continue until you are able to work again on a regular basis. There are also a number of special rules, called “work incentives,” that provide continued benefits and health care coverage to help you make the transition back to work. If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.

The definition of disability under Social Security is different than other programs. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability. “Disability” under Social Security is based on your inability to work. Social Security considers you disabled under Social Security rules if:

  • You cannot do work that you did before; Understanding Social Security Disability Benefits Requirements
  • Social Security decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

In addition to meeting Social Security’s definition of disability, you must have worked long enough–and recently enough–under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits. Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year. The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.


If you have enough work to qualify for disability benefits, Social Security uses a step-by-step process involving five questions. They are:

  1. Are you working?

If you are working in 2016 and your earnings average more than $1,130 a month, you generally cannot be considered disabled. If you are not working, Social Security will send your application to the Disability Determination Services office that will make the decision about your medical condition. (Steps 2-5).

  1. Is your condition “severe”?

Your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered. If it does not, Social Security will find that you are not disabled. If your condition does interfere with basic work-related activities, Social Security goes to Step 3.

  1. Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?

For each of the major body systems, Social Security maintains a list of medical conditions that are so severe they automatically mean that you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, Social Security has to decide if it is of equal severity to a medical condition that is on the list. If it is, Social Security will find that you are disabled. If it is not, we then go to Step 4.

  1. Can you do the work you did previously?

If your condition is severe but not at the same or equal level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then Social Security must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If it does not, your claim will be denied. If it does, Social Security will proceed to Step 5.

  1. Can you do any other type of work?

If you cannot do the work you did in the past, Social Security will evaluate if you are able to adjust to other work. Social Security considers your medical conditions and your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills you may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied.

If you believe you have met these requirements, or know someone who has, call an experienced attorney at Batson Nolan who can help guide you through the Social Security Disability benefits process.