How to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits

On Behalf of | May 10, 2022 | SSD Benefits

Essentially, Social Security Disability Insurance benefits have only two requirements. First, the SSDI applicant must have worked for a Social Security-covered employer for a minimum amount of time or longer. Second, the SSDI applicant must have a medical condition that qualifies as a disability under Social Security’s disability definition. If the applicant does qualify, the Social Security Administration pays SSDI monthly for at least a year, depending on the nature of the disability. While an ability to work can affect benefits, there are work incentives that help a person transition back to work in California, if they are able.

Work requirement?

The SSA work requirement refers to the recency and length of qualified San Diego employment based on Social Security work credits. These credits are awarded based on yearly SSA reported income, up to four credits per year, and the wage amount needed can change yearly.

For example, this year, one credit is earned for every $1,510 up to $6,040. Generally, SSDI applicants must have 40 credits, but 20 credits must have been earned within the prior 10 years when the disability occurred. Of course, if an applicant is too young to qualify with this baseline, fewer credits are allowed.


Social Security has different disability definitions for their programs. For SSDI, the applicant must not be able to work in a substantial gainful activity because of their disability. In addition, because of that disability, the California SSDI applicant cannot do the work done prior to the disability, and work adjustments will not help. That disability also must be expected to last for at least one year or result in the applicant’s death.

Why do short-term disabilities not qualify?

For the purposes of SSDI, the SSA assumes that workers and their families have assets and resources, which were earned over their lifetime, which includes investments, cash savings, hard and soft assets, insurance, workers’ compensation, state benefits, etc. This is presumably enough to cover applicants if they have a short-term disability.

SSDI applicants

For San Diego, California, SSDI applicants, the information in this post is not exhaustive, and the process is not easy. Indeed, most applicants are denied benefits on their first application, even if they do ultimately qualify. The process is designed to be confusing and laborious, which is why many SSDI applicants seek help.