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Do I qualify for Social Security Disability benefits?

Having a serious medical condition can be stressful and financially devastating, as well as painful and disabling. If you have a medical condition that is preventing you from working and your doctor expects it to last at least one year or has diagnosed you as terminal, you may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD).

However, there are additional requirements as well as an application process before you can start receiving benefits. Let’s examine those here.

What are the earnings requirements for SSD?

You must meet two different earnings requirements to qualify for benefits:

  • A recent work test, which is based on the age you became disabled
  • A duration of work tests, which proves that you have worked long enough under Social Security aka contributed enough to the program to access benefits

Note: Blind workers are exempt from the recent work test.

What do you need for the application?

The application requires many documents. Although it may seem like a lot to gather, don’t delay your application. Apply as soon as possible, as the process can take some time. Here’s what you need:

  • Social Security number
  • Copy of your birth certificate
  • Contact information for all doctors, caseworkers, hospitals and clinics
  • List of visit dates to doctors and clinics
  • Prescription medication list, including dosages
  • Medical records from doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and casework that you have copies of
  • Lab and test results
  • Work summary, detailing your responsibilities
  • Recent W-2 form or, if self-employed, a federal tax return

There will also be additional forms, including one that collects details about the severity of your medical condition and how it inhibits your capacity to work. You’ll have to sign release-of-information forms for your healthcare professionals as well, giving the Social Security Administration permission to contact your doctors.

Who decides whether you are disabled?

The local Disability Determination Services (DDS) office will issue the decision after reviewing the information provided. They may ask for additional information in the course of this review, or they may feel they have enough to proceed with. If DDS approves your claim, you will start receiving benefits. If DDDS denies your application, there is always the possibility of appealing the decision.