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Who Can Qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits?

For those who have worked and paid sufficient Social Security taxes to acquire sufficient quarters of coverage so as to be insured under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, a monthly check is available and payable based on how much one has paid into the system through their payroll taxes, assuming they meet the definition of “disabled” under Social Security’s rules.

The system is designed in much the same way a policy of insurance for auto or health is designed: assuming you pay into the program sufficiently (much in the way of premiums) such that you are “insured” at the time of an event (that is, become disabled), then you are covered for SSDI benefits for as long as you remain “disabled” under Social Security’s rules. Benefits will be payable to you monthly based on the amount you’ve paid into the system up until such time as you reach full retirement age (at which time your benefit will turn into a retirement Social Security check, payable through the retirement trust fund versus the disability trust fund). Much like a private disability policy, however, if one does not pay into the system so as to keep insured, then coverage available will lapse. Benefits may also be payable to spouses, and dependent children under this program under certain circumstances as well.

There is a two part test, typically, when determining whether one would qualify for SSDI: one, whether you remain “fully insured” and the other test is whether you are “currently insured.” One’s contribution into the program is determined based on “quarters of coverage” (QC) that are earned for every so much paid each year in Social Security taxed earnings. In 2021, the amount of Social Security taxed income necessary to earn a QC is $1470.00. And so, earning simply $5880.00 in Social Security taxed earnings in 2021 will cause one to acquire 4 QCs.

In order to be considered “fully insured,” the Social Security regulations require that one earn one (1) QC for each calendar year after they reach the age of 21, up until the date one has become disabled, up to a maximum of 40 QCs. Likewise, in order to have “disability insured status” at the time one becomes disabled from working, one needs to acquire 20 quarters of coverage over the 40 quarter period leading up to becoming disabled from working. 20 C.F.R. §130 This insured status test applies to those Social Security disability claimants who have reached the age of 31 and older. Thus, if one has worked regular and substantially (even simply earning $5880.00 or more per year) for the 5 year period (20 quarters) leading up to becoming disabled, they will be insured for an additional 5 years (or 20 quarters).

For those who find themselves disabled prior to the age of 31, the Social Security regulations provide for a reduced earnings requirement. In such a circumstance, an individual need only earn QCs in one-half (1/2) of the calendar quarters leading up to becoming disabled, beginning the quarter after the quarter in which they turned 21 (with a minimum of 6 quarters of coverage required). Yet another rule applies for those who find themselves disabled from working prior the age of 24: in such a circumstance, the 6 QC minimum applies and such QCs must be earned in during the 12 quarters leading up to one’s disability.

These are the basic rules regarding the earnings requirement imposed under the SSDI program. For an evaluation as to whether you or a loved one would qualify, call the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at (800) 773-8622 or chat with one of our on line representatives.