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 Social Security Disability
- Qualifying For Disability
- Disability Determinations
- Hearings and Appeals
- Retaining An Attorney





To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must prove that a medical condition will keep you out of work for at least twelve months. You're not required to prove you are “permanently disabled,” but it's your responsibility to provide the Social Security Administration with information that shows the extent and duration of your condition. Most people are initially denied, so be prepared to explain your case and present persuasive evidence. It's wise to apply as soon as you become disabled. Waiting until you have been out of work for a year or more may cause you to lose benefits. In fact, if you wait too long, you will no longer qualify.

People who are disabled receive monthly Social Security benefits under two primary programs, Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (usually called "SSI"). The medical requirements are the same for both programs, but the income and asset requirements are very different.

Social Security Disability Insurance provides coverage for people who contributed to the Social Security system, usually through payroll deductions or self employment taxes. To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, you must have earned enough "quarters of coverage" (also called "credits of coverage") to meet the minimum requirements.

"Quarters of coverage" are based upon your annual earnings and you can earn up to four credits each year.  In the year 2009, you receive one credit for each $1,090.00 in earned income, so if you earn at least $4,360.00 during the year, you will receive credit for four quarters. The amount of income that equals each "quarter of coverage" for prior years is listed in this chart.

About four out of every five adults is insured for Social Security Disability. The rules concerning the number of "quarters of coverage" you need to qualify for Social Security disability are outlined below.

  • If you became disabled when you were 23 years old or younger, you may qualify if you earned at least 6 quarters of coverage during the 3 years before your disability started.
  • If you became disabled when you were 24 though 30 years old, you will need to have earned credit for at least half of the available quarters between the time you turned 21 and the time you became disabled.
  • If you became disabled at 31 years old or older, you must satisfy two requirements. You must have earned one quarter of coverage (whenever acquired) for each year after the year in which you turned 21 and at least 20 of those quarters must have been earned during the 40 quarters immediately before you became disabled.
Age at
Which You Became Disabled
Number of Credits Needed to Qualify
31-42 20
43 21
44 22
45 23
46 24
47 25
48 26
49 27
50 28
51 29
52 30
53 31
54 32
55 33
56 34
57 35
58 36
59 37
60 38
61 39
62 or older 40


The average monthly Social Security Disability benefit payment is approximately $1,063.00 (2009), but can be significantly higher. In addition to the basic monthly benefit, benefits may also paid for the disabled worker's spouse (an average monthly benefit of about $285.00 per month in 2009) and dependent children (an average monthly benefit of about $318.00 per month in 2009). For more information, please see the Social Security Administration's monthly Fact Sheet.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides benefits for disabled adults and children who have little or no income and very few assets. People who receive SSI typically do not meet the contribution requirements for Social Security Disability, though some individuals may receive a combination of SSI & Disability. SSI recipient's assets usually total less than $2,000.00 ($3,000.00 for a couple), though items such as home equity and some vehicles are excluded from the calculation.

The standard benefit for an adult SSI recipient in 2009 is $674.00 per month. SSI benefits are not paid on behalf of the spouse or child of an SSI recipient unless the spouse or child is also disabled.

For an estimate of the amount of your Social Security Disability benefits, request an earnings statement by phone, try the quick calculator or get detailed information about how the Social Security Administration determines Disability benefit rates.

Social Security does not recognize "partial disability" and benefits are never paid on a percentage basis. You must be totally disabled to receive disability benefits. But the Social Security Administration may find you to be totally disabled though your doctor has concluded that you are only partially disabled. For example, certain medical conditions will cause you to qualify for Social Security Disability though your doctor has released you to light-duty or part-time work.


People who receive Social Security Disability also receive Medicare. Your Medicare coverage typically starts after you receive two years of Disability benefits. If you qualify for SSI, you will receive Medicaid coverage as soon as your SSI benefits begin.

Next: Disability Determinations


David Buie, Louisiana Workers Compensation Attorney and Social Security Disability Attorney, 650 Poydras Street, Suite 1400, New Orleans, LA 70131, (800) 851-9405 / Fax: (866) 702-5297 Representing claimants in:
Alexandria Baton Rouge Bossier City Covington Gretna
Hammond Harahan Harvey Houma Kenner Lafayette Lake Charles
Laplace Marrero Metairie Monroe New Iberia New Orleans
Opelousas Ruston Shreveport Slidell Terrytown

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