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A closer look at how the SSA determines disability - II

In a previous post, we started discussing how even though it can understandably prove to be very distressing from a financial perspective to be diagnosed with a serious illness or life-changing injury, those in this situation can derive some comfort from the knowledge that they may be eligible for benefits via the Social Security Administration's disability insurance program.

Specifically, we discussed the conditions that a person must be able to satisfy in order to meet the SSA's definition of disability, and how SSDI benefits are only available for totally disabling injuries or illnesses. We'll continue this discussion in today's post, exploring the earnings tests that must be satisfied in order to secure disability benefits.

Even if an individual satisfies all three elements of the SSA's disability test, an additional threshold determination must also be made as to whether they have worked recently enough and long enough to qualify for benefits. In other words, they must be able to pass what are known as the duration of work test and the recent work test.

While these are relatively complex topics, it can perhaps best be summarized by understanding that you earn what are known as Social Security work credits -- up to four per year -- based on your annual wages/self-employment income.

The amount required to earn one credit is adjusted on a year-to-year basis, and sits at $1,260 of wages/self-employment income in 2016, such that once $5,040 is banked, the four Social Security credits for the year have been earned.

The age at which you become disabled dictates the total amount of work credits you will need to qualify for disability benefits. While younger workers can qualify with fewer credits, the typical number needed is 40 work credits, at least half of which must be earned in the ten years preceding the disability.

As you can plainly see, this process is somewhat arcane. As such, anyone who is dealing with a medical condition that they believe is disabling should strongly consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can answer their questions, explain the law and help guide them through the process of pursuing disability benefits.

We'll continue this discussion in future posts, examining the five-step process relied upon by the SSA to determine if someone is disabled.

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Mr. McKellar was voted by his peers as a “Top Attorney” by Knoxville’s CityView magazine in its 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 editions. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, Mr. McKellar was selected as a member of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” by the National Trial Lawyers.

Ms. Easter was voted by her peers as a “Top Attorney” in Cityview Magazine for Family Law / Divorce / Child Support in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

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