How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits

by Lori Polemenakos   ·  10 months ago  

Important: We updated this article in February 2023 to ensure all info below is both correct and current. In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, every bullet point below must describe you:

  • You are unable to work specifically due to health problems.
  • Your doctor expects your mental or physical disability to last at least a year or result in death.
  • Doctor-provided medical records support your disability claim. (You must submit evidence that shows you get regular treatments for your condition.)
  • You don’t currently receive any Social Security payments each month (i.e., survivor’s, retirement, or spousal benefits).

Which Type of Social Security Disability Benefits Are You Most Likely to Qualify For?

The Social Security Administration manages two different programs that provide monthly disability benefits to eligible applicants. To see which one you may qualify for, the last thing the SSA checks is your work history and current age. (You can also check your eligibility online in less than 2 minutes using this form.)

There are no resource limits to qualify for SSDI, but you can’t earn more than $1,470 in monthly income. Income and resource limits that determine your SSI eligibility are listed below.

 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) ProgramSocial Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Program
Your current age must be:Any18-66
Have you worked full-time for at least 5 in the last 10 years full-time and paid FICA taxes?NoYes
Unemployed 5+ years, worked part time and/or seasonal jobs, or didn’t pay FICA taxes?YesNo

Qualifying for SSI: Maximum Monthly Household Income Amount and Resource Limits

Since SSI helps disabled people with little to no income, the SSA uses resource limits to decide who’s eligible. In order to qualify for monthly benefits, eligible SSI applicants must:

  • Have less than $2,000 in resources available to you individually (or $3,000 for couples). Your home, vehicle, wedding rings, clothing, appliances and furniture don’t count towards your resource limits in order to qualify for SSI. However, the SSA does count cash, savings bonds, land, life insurance and anything else you can sell towards this limit.
  • Receive less than $1,470 in monthly income. This is what the SSA calls “substantial gainful income,” and it covers more than just work wages. It also includes your non-wage earnings, like alimony, child support, dividends and earned interest as well as “free” housing or meals from family members.

Free Disability Guide: Download your FREE disability guide

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity,, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.