Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
Social Security disability benefits are governed by federal Social Security laws, not state or local laws, since the Social Security Administration (SSA) is a national agency. Those Social Security laws may have a great impact on your financial future, so it’s important to keep up with any new Social Security disability laws that might be passed to stay informed about your rights.

Where Disability Laws Are Found

The majority of federal laws and regulations for Social Security disability benefits are found in Title 42 of the United States Code or in Title 20 of the Code of Federal Regulations, where Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is covered in Part 404. In addition, rulings over the years have clarified policies and regulations. These rulings are binding on the SSA and are published by the head of the Social Security Administration. Rulings from the year 1960 onward are found on the SSA’s website.

How You Qualify By Law

To qualify by law for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must prove these things:
  • That you are a disabled insured worker under full retirement age, younger than full retirement age, between 65 and 67 depending on your birthday.
  • You must fulfill certain citizenship or lawful residency requirements, although foreign workers also may qualify for SSDI.
  • You must have a physical or mental impairment or a combination of impairments that make you unable to work in a manner to which you’re accustomed for at least one year or a period expected to be at least one year. You must be unable to return to your past relevant work or adapt to different work.
  • You must have contributed to the SSA by means of federal payroll taxes (FICA) for a certain span of time (usually 5 to 10 years) before claiming disability. You must have worked sufficient quarters to be covered at the time your disability began. An individual’s monthly benefit depends largely on their earnings history.
To Qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI):
  • You must have a limited amount of resources. SSI is payments to people who are disabled and have low income or few resources
In short, to be eligible for SSDI or SSI benefits, according to Social Security laws, you must be medically eligible as well as financially eligible. The SSA will determine whether your injury or illness is disabling and whether you have earned enough work credits to receive SSDI or financially meet Social Security Criteria.

What Are Work Credits?

Each time you earn a certain amount of salary or self-employment income, you get one work credit from the SSA. In 2016, it takes $1,260 of earnings to receive one work credit. You can earn a maximum of four work credits in one calendar year. To be eligible for SSDI, you generally must have amassed at least 40 work credits over your lifetime, of which 20 must have been earned in the 10-year period leading up to your application date. However, this requirement varies depending on your age.

Medical Regulations

To receive disability benefits, claimants must prove they have a medical condition that meets the following criteria:
  • The medical condition is severe enough to be disabling.
  • The medical condition meets the SSA’s requirements for an impairment based on a long list of SSA-approved impairments.
  • The medical condition prevents claimants from working at any of their previous jobs.
  • The medical condition prevents claimants from doing any other job, given their age, skills, and education.
Also, according to Social Security disability laws, the medical disability must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 months.

Financial Regulations

If a claimant still earns a certain amount of money per month, the claimant may be deemed gainfully employed and thus ineligible for SSDI benefits under Social Security laws. What is “gainfully employed”? That involves the SSA’s determination of “substantial gainful activity,” or SGA. For 2016, work is generally considered to be SGA if the monthly earnings are more than $1,130 for non-blind disabled applicants or $1,820 for blind applicants. Workers earning above those amounts are considered not disabled by the SSA, since they can engage in employment, and they are ineligible for disability benefits. Under disability law, the SSA does not take into account any income gained from non-employment sources, such as gifts, investments, or interest. For instance, regardless of your age, you most likely can withdraw funds from a 401(k) without penalty while receiving SSDI benefits. But keep in mind that those withdrawn funds still will constitute taxable income when you file your tax return.

By Law, Can a Spouse Also Receive SSDI?

If you receive SSDI, can your spouse also do so? The answer is yes, in certain circumstances. For this to happen, under the Social Security disability laws, your spouse must be 62 or older or must be caring for a child entitled on your record who is under 16 or disabled. Also, you must be receiving SSDI benefits for your spouse to do so independently of their own earnings.

Other Legal Questions for SSDI

Other legal questions involving SSDI include: Can you earn money while receiving disability benefits? In some cases you can, via a “Ticket to Work” program administered by the SSA. This allows trial work periods when you can work for nine months of trial work followed by a three-month grace period and stay in the program. If you stay in the workforce beyond those 12 months and earn more than a specified amount, your disability benefits may be suspended. Can children receive disability benefits? Disability laws and rules also can provide benefits for children. In fact, children and adults who have been disabled since childhood may qualify for SSDI benefits on the work records of their parents.

Get a Disability Lawyer for Social Security Claims

We know that these complex Social Security disability laws can be intimidating. That’s why we’re here: Let us help you. Jim Adler & Associates can provide you with a knowledgeable and experienced disability lawyer who understands both old and new Social Security laws. Then, you can claim the disability payments to which you are legally entitled.   Contact us today and get a free case review.
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