Do I Qualify for Disability?

Understanding Disability Benefits: SSI and SSDI

Disability Qualifications
Martin Barraud / OJO Images / Getty Images

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a formula for determining if an individual is considered disabled. There are five basic steps that must be met in order to qualify for disability. Each rule is evaluated and if the requirement is met, the next step is considered. All five requirements must be adequately met in order for your claim to be accepted.

  1. Are you working? – Have you been able to work in the past year? If yes, have you earned more than a specific average per month? For 2007, that amount is $900 per month. (This dollar figure may change for 2008.) If yes, you will not be considered disabled.
  1. Is your condition "severe?" – In order for your condition to be considered severe, it must interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities. Basic work-related activities include things such as exerting yourself physically (walking, carrying, climbing stairs, etc.), tolerating certain environmental conditions (temperature extremes, noise, vibrations), maintaining concentration and attention, understanding, remembering and carrying out instructions, responding appropriately to other people, coping with change, etc.
  2. Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions? – Bipolar disorder is listed in this directory. See Is Bipolar Disorder a Qualified Condition for Disability?
  3. Can you do work you did previously? – If you are unable to do the work associated with your most current employment, SSA will then evaluate if you can still do the work of previous positions. They look at the past 15 years, evaluating if you were productive and had gainful activity and if you were employed long enough to adequately learn the job. If it is determined that you are not physically and mentally able to do any of your past relevant work, the final question will be considered.
  1. Can you do any other type of work? – If you are unable to maintain your current employment and you cannot return to work you’ve done in the past, SSA will then evaluate if you can adjust to a new job. Your medical condition, age, education, past work experience, and transferable skills will be considered.

    Understanding Disability Benefits – The Series

    1. I Can’t Hold a Job! What Do I Do? – Introduction
    2. What is Disability?
    3. Do I Qualify for Disability?
    4. Is Bipolar Disorder a Qualified Condition for Disability?
    5. How Do I Start My Disability Application?
    6. What Information and Paperwork Do I Need?
    7. What Happens with My Application?
    8. How Long Will It Take to Get Benefits?
    9. What Benefits Will I Get?
    10. Who Can Help Me?