Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays monthly benefits to individuals who have accumulated enough work credits to qualify for the program. The number of work credits you have is based on how much you earn in one year. The Social Security Administration allows workers to earn no more than four credits per year. As of 2020, the SSA will give you one credit for every $1410 you earn. The maximum of four credits is allotted once you have earned $5640 in one year.
In most cases, SSDI applicants need 40 work credits to qualify for SSDI. Twenty of those credits must have been earned over the past 10 years. However, if you are under 50 years old and have a qualifying disability, the SSA may approve your SSDI application with fewer than 40 credits.
What are Disability Requirements Established by the SSA?
When you apply for SSDI, you need to prove that:
- You are incapable of doing work you previously did (for example, if you are a house painter, you must prove you can no longer climb ladders, lift objects, stand on your feet for hours, etc)
- You prove you cannot adjust to other types of employment due to your disability
- You prove you have had your disability for at least one year or it is expected to continue for one year
- You prove your disability has a negative prognosis (resulting in death)
The SSA further considers an SSDI applicant’s education level, age, and transferrable skills (if any) when determining whether to approve or deny a claim. Disability examiners at the SSA look at the Blue Book of Medical Conditions first when evaluating claims. If the disability indicated in an SSDI application is listed in the Blue Book and symptoms match impairment criteria, the examiner will likely approve the claim.
Medical conditions included in the Blue Book describe impairments affecting all major physiological systems. The SSA states these impairments represent conditions potentially severe enough to prevent someone from performing “gainful activity”, the term used by the SSA for earning income through employment. Many of the conditions are expected to be permanent conditions that will not improve with treatment.
What Happens When Your Disability is not Listed in the SSA’s Blue Book?
Disabilities not listed in the Blue Book may still be approved for SSDI by relying on criteria set by the SSA’s medical-vocational allowance (MVA) program. An MVA approval means that even though a disability failed to meet SSA requirements, the claimant is considered to have a disability severe enough to prevent them from substantial gainful activity (SGA). Substantial gainful activity is simply a term used by the SSA to indicate a claimant cannot work and earn income sufficient to pay for housing, food, and other life essentials.
For 2020, the SSA allows you to receive SSDI payments while still receiving SGA amounts of $1260 for nonblind individuals and $2110 for blind individuals
What Disabilities Qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance?
Information about disabilities is taken from the SSA’s Blue Book of Impairments
Disorders of the Immune System
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Systemic vasculitis
- Inflammatory arthritis
The SSA accepts the following diagnostic imaging tests when applying for SSDI for an immune system disorder: x-rays, angiography, CAT scans, MRIs or radionuclear bone scans. You must show you cannot work due to symptoms that include but are not limited to severe fatigue, extreme weight loss, fever and general malaise. If an immune system disorder has impaired your cognitive abilities, you must send documented test results proving your reduced ability to focus, remember or think clearly.
Disorders of the Cardiovascular System
- Chronic heart failure
- Ischemic heart disease
- Recurring heart arrhythmia
- Congenital heart disease
- Heart transplant
- Aorta aneurysm
- Chronic venous insufficiency
- Peripheral arterial disease
The SSA requires detailed medical documents and reports proving diagnosis of the disease, response to treatments and a longitudinal record containing at least three months of treatment and observation results.
Disorders of the Musculoskeletal System
- Severe joint dysfunction caused by arthritis, osteoarthritis, bone cancer, etc.
- Reconstructive joint surgery/joint replacement of any weight-bearing joint (knees, hips, ankles)
- Spine disorders
- Limb amputation
- Fractures of the pelvis, tibia, femur or tarsal bones
- Severe soft tissue injuries (burns, chemical injuries)
To qualify for SSDI for a musculoskeletal disorder, the SSA must find extreme limitations regarding your ability to walk, use your arms or move without pain.
Disorders of the Digestive System
- Chronic liver disease (hepatitis)
- Gastrointestinal hemorrhaging severe enough to require a blood transfusion
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Severe weight loss/inability to gain weight due to any GI disorder
- Liver transplant
- Crohn’s disease
Some digestive system disorders may be difficult to get approved for SSDI. The SSA considers these disorders more responsive to treatment. They want extensive documentation showing you have tried several different types of treatment and how you responded to each treatment.
Disorders of the Respiratory System
- Cystic fibrosis
- Chronic pulmonary hypertension
- Lung transplant
- Respiratory failure
- Lung cancer
Medical evidence indicating you have a respiratory disorder severe enough to prevent you from working is needed to prove your case. Pulmonary function tests show just how difficult it is for you to inhale enough oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Even if you rely on supplemental oxygen to breathe, the SSA still requires clinical reports establishing the chronic severity of your respiratory disease.
Other common disabilities that qualify for SSDI include:
- Thyroid diseases
- Obesity (people who are severely obese generally suffer from chronic, disabling disorders due to their obesity)
- Sickle cell disease
- Breast cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Cerebral palsy
- Epilepsy/Recurring seizures
Schedule a consultation appointment at Joel Thrift Law if you believe you have a disability that prevents you from substantial gainful activity. Even though your medical condition does not have a separate listing in the SSA’s Blue Book of Impairments, you could still qualify and be approved for SSDI with an experienced disability attorney handling your case.
What Mental Disorders Qualify for SSDI?
Mental illnesses are typically harder to get approved by the SSA unless they are severe enough to warrant institutionalization. Mental disorders listed in the Blue Book include:
- Major depression
- Bipolar disorder
- Autism/autism spectrum disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Anxiety/panic disorders
- Personality disorders
- Intellectual/cognitive impairment disorders
While a physical health problem is easily substantiated with diagnostic scans, lab tests, and other empirical evaluations, a mental illness diagnosis is initially viewed as a subjective diagnosis by SSA disability examiners. To qualify for SSDI, a mental illness must have prevented the individual from working for at least six months. The inability to work due to mental illness should be supported by extensive documentation proving the person has had and is continuing to comply with psychological and pharmacological treatments.
Written testimonies from caregivers, relatives, and close friends who interact with the claimant on a daily basis will also help the SSA lean towards approval of SSDI benefits. Testimonies should detail the difficulties the person has in completing tasks essential for their well-being. For example, a caregiver who spends several hours a day with someone who is taking medication for schizophrenia may describe the problems the person has with remembering, concentrating, and relating to others.
One reason why the SSA denies many SSDI benefit applications is they discover the person has been noncompliant with treatments prescribed by their physician. The majority of mental illness symptoms can be managed as long as the individual takes medication as directed and follows through on counseling appointments. Alternately, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders are the most difficult to treat with antipsychotic drugs primarily because of side effects and the need for frequent dosage adjustments. Also, if you were recently diagnosed with a mental illness such as major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, or a personality disorder and have just started taking medications, the SSA will immediately deny your SSDI claim due to a lack of duration of your mental illness.
Understanding which disabilities may qualify for SSDI, gathering medical reports, and navigating complicated rules when applying for disability benefits is both stressful and time-consuming. Joel Thrift Law can help relieve the stress of applying for SSDI by managing your case from start to finish. Contact us today to make a consultation appointment and start the process of getting the financial assistance you need and deserve.