What You Should Know About Social Security Disability Insurance

husband and wife with disability in a wheelchair sitting and smiling together


If you have a disability that prevents you from working, you may qualify for financial assistance through the Social Security Administration (SSA). Living with a medical condition that interferes with your daily life and work is difficult enough without additional financial stress and hardship. Federal disability benefits are there to protect individuals suffering from disability and their families.


Many people qualify to receive Social Security Disability Insurance but don’t realize that they’re eligible. If you meet the requirements, you’re entitled to assistance. This article breaks down how Social Security Disability Insurance works and discusses how to find out if you qualify, along with the next steps to take.

What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

couple sitting on a couch and holding paperwork

The SSA has two main benefit categories for U.S. citizens who qualify: Social Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Both SSI and SSDI are designed to provide financial assistance, but the programs have different eligibility requirements. SSI pays benefits to a disabled person who also has financial needs. SSDI pays benefits to people who are disabled, who have enough recent work to be fully insured by social security 


It’s important to note that, while these are separate programs, people who receive these benefits sometimes have overlapping situations, such as old age and disability. Age, health, and previous work situations play a role in both categories. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on Social Security Disability Insurance.


The SSDI program pays benefits to individuals (and certain family members) who have long-term medical conditions that meet the SSA’s disability requirements. To qualify, you must also be “insured,” meaning you’ve worked and paid Social Security taxes on your earnings for a sufficient number of years.


SSDI Eligibility: Do You Qualify?

Your eligibility to receive SSDI benefits is determined by 1) work requirements and 2) disability requirements. Let’s look at each of these categories individually:

Work Requirements

To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have worked and contributed to Social Security through your taxes for a specified amount of time (and recently enough) to meet the requirements. This is evaluated using an SSA work-credit system. The number of credits required to receive benefits depends on your age:

  • 23 and under: 6 work credits are generally required in the 3 years leading up to the start of your disability.
  • 24-31: Typically, you must have worked for half the time between age 21 and the start of your disability. For example, if you become disabled when you are 27 years old, you must have worked for 3 of the past 6 years (12 credits) to qualify.
  • 31 and over: Generally, you’re required to have earned at least 20 credits over the 10 years leading up to the start of your disability.

The requirements for earning work credit can change annually. The SSA publishes information on how to earn credit each year.

Disability Requirements

In addition to the work-credit requirements, in order to receive SSDI assistance, you must have a  medical condition that prevents you from earning a living and that meets the SSA definition of a disability. If you have the required work credits, the SSA uses a step-by-step system to determine your eligibility based on the disability requirements.

Below is a simplified list of the 5 requirements that typically apply in order for a person to be considered disabled. For more detailed information, please refer directly to the SSA’s website.

  1. You must not be working.
  2. Your condition must be severe.
  3. Your medical condition must be either on the list of disabling conditions, or your condition must prevent you from performing work you engaged in previously, and You must be unable to perform other kinds of work available to you based on your condition(s), age, education, work history, and transferable skills.

How to Apply For SSDI Benefits

elderly man with glasses holding a social security disability claim form

You can apply for disability benefits in person, by phone, or online. Applying for SSDI assistance follows a general set of steps:

  • Review the SSA’s Adult Disability Checklist and gather all the necessary documentation.
  • Complete and submit your application.
  • Wait for your application to be processed by the SSA and sent to the Disability Determination Services office in your state, who will make a disability determination regarding your case.

The application process can be complicated and frustrating. You don’t have to navigate it alone. Statistics prove that those who pursue Social Security benefits with the assistance of an attorney have an increased chance of approval. With legal guidance, you can present the most solid case for your eligibility and navigate the appeals process in the event that your application is denied.

Get the Financial Assistance You Need & Deserve

The disability attorneys at Ransom, Gilbertson, Martin, & Ratliff, LLP help secure benefits for people from all over Oregon who are suffering from conditions such as the following:

  • Arthritis
  • Back Pain
  • Cancer
  • Colitis
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart and Cardiovascular Problems
  • IBS
  • Kidney Disease
  • Depression, or other mental disorders
  • And many more

If you have a medical condition that interferes with your ability to work, we can help you determine your eligibility for SSDI benefits and navigate the application process. If you’ve been denied, we’re here to fight for you through the appeals process.

We don’t charge fees for consultations, and we don’t take anything from you if we don’t win your case. We’re on your side, and we don’t back away from a challenge. Don’t wait to get the help you need. Contact us to tell us about your case.

Adian Martin

Adian Martin (JD) is an accomplished attorney with over 25 years of experience. His goal is to use his legal expertise and passion for problem-solving to help people get the benefits and proper compensation they deserve after an injury. He received his law degree from Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College and is currently a partner at Ransom Gilbertson Martin & Ratliff. In his spare time, Adian enjoys exploring the outdoors with his dog and bicycling.

Schedule A Free Consultation!

Contact us today about your workers’ comp, personal injury, or social security case.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.