When You Should Claim Social Security Disability

Suffering from a disability is something that will financially impact your life and the lives of your dependents. Disability does not just affect the elderly; it affects younger people as well. Many young people have become disabled to the point where they cannot work before reaching their retirement age. Social Security Disability benefits play a crucial role in providing financial support for those truly in need in these situations.

Here’s a guide on when you can and should claim Social Security Disability.

When to Claim Social Security Disability

You should apply for Social Security Disability as soon as you are sure you have a disability.  Any delay in applying for your earned disability benefits is time lost on the benefits you are entitled to. The Social Security Administration cannot disburse funds for periods before the date that your application became effective. 

What Is Social Security Disability? 

Social Security Disability (SSDI) is an insurance program where you can receive benefits when you cannot work due to a disability. Through this program, you and your dependents are provided benefits that will replace some of your lost income. 

How to Know if You’re Eligible to Receive Disability 

Based on the Social Security Act, you are disabled if you cannot work because of a severe medical condition that lasted or will continue for a minimum of one year, or bring about death. Your medical condition has to hamper your ability to work regularly, and it must interfere with you transitioning to another form of work. The Social Security Administration keeps a list of medical conditions that they consider severe enough to prevent you from participating in work-like activities. 

The Social Security Administration has two initiatives to speed up the process of new disability applications. One initiative is the “Compassionate Allowances,” which is a quick way to pinpoint medical conditions that meet the standards to receive disability benefits. The medical conditions mainly include adult brain disorders, cancer, and rare disorders that affect children. The Compassionate Allowance helps to lessen the time it takes to arrive at a disability determination. 

The other initiative is “Quick Disability Determinations,” where the Social Security Administration utilizes modern computer screening to pinpoint cases with a high likelihood of a favorable disability determination and the medical documentation is readily accessible. These initiatives allow the Social Security Administration to approve individual claims in just days as opposed to months. 

Social Security Work Credits

Not only do you need to meet the disability criteria to obtain SSDI benefits, but you also need to have worked recently enough and for a certain period to qualify. Social Security work credits get determined by your annual job income or self-employment income. As of 2020, you earn one credit for every $1,410 in income. Once you have made $5,640, you would have earned four credits for that year. The amount of work credits needed is dependent upon the age when you became disabled. 

Typically, you must have 40 credits, whereas 20 of those credits earned in the past ten years. If you’re a younger worker, you may be able to qualify with lesser credits. You may also be able to be eligible under your spouse’s or parent’s work history. Suppose you were disabled before reaching the age of 22. In that case, you can be considered an adult child and likely be entitled to receive Social Security Disability benefits based on your parent’s work history. If you have a deceased spouse and are between the ages of 50 and 60, you may be eligible for widow’s disability benefits based on your spouse’s work history. 

What Is the Benefit Amount Each Month? 

The benefit amount varies from person to person. The amount you receive is calculated based on your income throughout your time in the labor force and your work history. 

Can You Work While Receiving Social Security Disability? 

As of 2020, if you’re employed and your income is over $1,260 per month, you usually would not be considered to be disabled. You can take part in the Social Security Ticket to Work Program. With the Ticket to Work program, you will be able to obtain free employment support services and will have the opportunity to get work incentives that allow you to work and receive health care. 

The Difference Between Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income 

Supplemental Security Income, known as SSI, provides financial assistance to those who are low-income and are at least 65 years old, disabled, and/or blind. The SSI program gets its funding from tax revenues, not from Social Security taxes. This is a more feasible option for individuals who do not have much work history. On the other hand, SSDI gets its funding from payroll taxes, and it’s not dependent on your income. You will need to have a stable work history and a significant level of disability to qualify. You must have worked five of the last ten years in positions where Social Security taxes were taken out of your income. 

How to Claim Social Security Disability 

To apply for Social Security Disability, you can apply online through their website, call their toll-free number, or you can call/visit a Social Security office that’s in your area. To apply online, you must be over 18 and not currently receiving benefits. You also must not have been denied benefits in the 60 days before applying. 

Information Needed to Apply for Benefits 

You will need: 

  • Proof of your age and your social security number
  • The type of medication you’re taking and the dosage
  • Medical records from all of your doctors, including clinics, hospitals, and therapists that you have access to
  • Names and contact information of the healthcare providers who attended to you and the dates of your visits
  • Lab results 
  • Summary of where you have been employed and the type of work you performed 
  • The most recent W-2 form. If you were self-employed, you would need to submit your federal tax return. 

What to Expect Once You Claim Social Security Disability

Once you have submitted your medical documentation to the Social Security Administration, your local office will review your information to determine if you likely qualify based on your work history and income. When that part of the process is complete, your file is directed to a disability claims examiner, who will analyze all of the medical documentation you provided. From there, the claims examiner will decide on your claim. A notification will be sent to you by mail on whether you were approved or denied. Expect to wait about 90 days to be notified about your claim. 

What Happens if Your Disability Application Is Denied? 

Once the Social Security Administration reviews your application, they may determine that you are not eligible to receive disability benefits. If you are not considered to be disabled based on their rules, you have the right to appeal their decision online. You will be presented with an online disability report which will request updated information regarding your medical condition along with any tests and treatment. If you disagree with their decision, you may submit a request for them to review your application again. 

The decision regarding the denial of benefits can be reversed at any time throughout the appeals process. If you decide to appeal the denial of your benefits, the process can be a lengthy amount of time. In some cases, it can take approximately a year to schedule a hearing. There are several stages of the appeal, including a request for reconsideration, a hearing in front of an administrative judge, a review by the Social Security Administration’s internal appeals board, and an appeal to the federal court. If you’re unable to attend a hearing in person, you may have the option to participate via video. 


A permanent or temporary disability can happen at any age. Many younger Americans suffer from disabling conditions severe enough to have caused them to miss work before they’ve even reached retirement age. Immediate relief for individuals faced with those circumstances is to claim Social Security Disability. 

Have a Social Security Disability Attorney by Your Side 

You do not have to go through the Social Security claims process alone, especially since it can be drawn out and complicated. 

If you are considering a claim, or have been denied, reach out to our expert team of Disability attorneys.  We’ve argued thousands of appeal cases – we know how to fight the Social Security Administration!