To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you must be completely disabled according to the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s definition of total disability. You must also have worked and paid Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) premiums while you were working. In most cases, if you have worked for an outside employer in the United States, you have made FICA contributions (as has your employer).
To qualify for total disability, according to the SSA’s definition, you must be completely unable to perform any work which you have ever performed in the past. This means that you need to be unable to perform the work on your current or last job. Additionally, the SSA must deem you incapable of adjusting to other work which is currently available for someone of your physical and mental abilities and level of education.
Regarding past work and FICA contributions, most workers will need to have worked for at least five of the past ten years in order to be insured under the SSDI benefits. The exact requirements vary depending on your age, with younger and older workers having less stringent requirements than workers in their 30s and 40s.
The first thing you need to do to qualify for SSDI is to make your intent to file known. Even if you are not positive that you are going to file a Social Security Disability claim, you should go to the SSA office and state your intent to file. Doing so establishes a protected filing date. In the event you are eventually approved for SSDI benefits, your back pay will generally be calculated based on your initial filing date.
Assuming you go forward and file a Social Security Disability claim, you will need to prove both that you have worked and contributed sufficiently to FICA and that you are in fact, completely disabled. Proving your FICA contributions is normally fairly straight forward. As long as your employers have filled out and turned in their proper paperwork, most of this is done for you. Proving your complete disability, however, is often not so easy or straight forward. The system, while designed to help those who truly qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, is also designed to weed out those who don’t. Unfortunately, many people who should qualify for Social Security Disability benefits have their initial claims rejected.
If you are looking to file a SSDI claim, you should strongly consider contacting a disability lawyer or advocate to represent you. While you are allowed to represent yourself, a competent disability advocate will save you a lot of time and headache simply by knowing how the Social Security Disability system works and how to best present your case, both in writing and (if necessary) before an Administrative Law Judge.