Qualifications for Disability Insurance

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability insurance that is paid through taxes on earnings and wages. If you become disabled, you may collect disability payments based on the amount that you have paid to SSA. Collecting disability payments requires meeting specific guidelines regarding your ability to work, your medical condition, and other factors.

Special Conditions

You automatically qualify for disability payments if you have end-stage renal (kidney) failure or blindness, as long as you meet other guidelines, such as income limits. SSA maintains a list of other accepted medical conditions that are considered severe enough to cause disability, including schizophrenia, affective disorders, mental retardation, epilepsy, chronic liver disease, and others.

If your condition is listed, you will need to undergo further assessment to determine whether the impairments of your condition prevent you from working. If your condition is not listed, it will be compared to other listed medical conditions to determine whether the condition is as severe as other accepted conditions.

Current Employment

If you are currently employed and are averaging more than $1,000 per month in earnings, you will likely not be considered disabled. However, exceptions may be granted based on your specific condition. For example, if you are blind, you are allowed to earn up to $1,640 per month and still qualify for disability payments. Other factors, such as amount of hours currently employed during the week and typical job duties, are considered as part of the disability review process. For example, if you apply for disability based on a back injury and are currently employed for 30 hours per week, earning minimum wage at a job that requires heavy lifting, you will almost certainly not receive disability, even though your employment is less than the income limit.

Ability to Work

SSA assesses whether or not your condition prevents you from returning to previous areas of employment. They also assess whether or not you are able to perform any other type of gainful employment due to your disability. For example, if you previously worked as a factory worker until you suffered a severe back injury that limits your mobility and prevents lifting, SSA will assess whether you are still able to perform light-duty work. Your age, educational background, past work experience, and transferable skills are considered when determining whether or not you can perform other types of work.

The procedure for determining disability is based on providing SSA with medical evidence, including gathering medical records from all medical providers, having an examination by a medical specialist appointed by SSA, and having a vocational expert assess your ability to work.