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Eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits

If you have spent significant time working for a living but you are now too injured or ill to continue working in a full-time capacity, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Applying for SSDI benefits is a notoriously challenging process. So, it’s important to be informed about eligibility requirements before attempting to secure these federal benefits. 

There are two primary criteria that you must meet before the Social Security Administration (SSA) will approve your request for SSDI benefits. First, you need to have spent time paying into the Social Security safety net (you need to have worked jobs that paid Social Security taxes). 

Next, you need to have been formally diagnosed with a medical condition that falls under the SSA’s definition of disability. Proving the debilitating nature of your disability tends to be tricky in all but the most extreme circumstances. 

How does the SSA define disability?

The SSA is concerned with whether you’re currently in a position to do the kind of work that you’ve done in the past. If you are, you won’t qualify as disabled for the purposes of SSDI benefits. If you’re unable to engage in similar employment opportunities, the SSA will want to know if you can do any alternative kind of significant work. If not, you’ll be approved for benefits. 

Before the SSA explicitly questions your work status, you’ll be asked to prove that you’ve been formally diagnosed with a medical condition that is either severe in and of itself or is manifesting in ways that are “severe.” For example, not every Lupus patient is unable to work but if you have Lupus that is manifesting in debilitating ways, you may qualify for benefits. 

By understanding the eligibility criteria for SSDI benefits, you’ll be better positioned to decide whether your application is likely to be approved. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you’re unsure of how these criteria apply to your unique circumstances.