Houston Social Security
Disability Attorney

Photo of David Dopkin
Photo of David Dopkin

What’s the definition of a disability for SSDI?

On Behalf of | Feb 6, 2024 | Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides a crucial safety net for individuals who find themselves unable to work due to severe, long-lasting disabilities. The program is overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Understanding the eligibility criteria for SSDI is essential for applicants, as it involves a detailed assessment of both the medical severity of the disability and the individual’s work history, ensuring that support reaches those most in need.

Understanding SSDI eligibility

To be eligible for SSDI, an individual must have a medical condition that meets the SSA’s strict definition of disability. This definition requires that disabilities are expected to last for at least one year or result in death. The condition must be severe enough to significantly limit the individual’s ability to perform basic work activities, rendering them incapable of engaging in substantial gainful employment in the national economy.

Work credits and SSDI

Eligibility for SSDI is also contingent on having accumulated enough work credits. These credits are earned through years of work and contributions to the Social Security system. A person can earn up to four credits per year, depending on their earnings. In 2024, one credit is earned for each $1,730 earned.

The number of credits required depends on the age at which the individual becomes disabled. Most people need 40 credits, with 20 of those being earned during the previous 10 years. Younger workers may qualify with fewer credits because they have had less time to accumulate credits than older workers.

The role of compassionate allowances

The SSA recognizes that certain conditions are so severe that they inherently qualify as disabilities under the SSDI program. The compassionate allowances program expedites applications involving specific severe conditions, such as certain advanced cancers, rare genetic disorders and other significant illnesses.

Applicants with a condition on the compassionate allowances list can receive a determination on their eligibility much faster than through the standard review process. The diagnosis must be included on the application so it can be picked up by the automated system and flagged for swift review.

SSDI applications can be complex, and they sometimes result in a denial. Working with someone who can provide legal assistance with this process benefits applicants who can’t afford to risk a denial or who need to appeal one.