How Do I Know If I am Eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance?

During a message to Congress on January 17, 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt presented his idea that later became the Social Security Act or the Act. The purpose of the Act was, in President Roosevelt’s words, to provide for the “security of the men, women, and children of the Nation against certain hazards and vicissitudes of life.” Congress enacted the Act in 1935, during the Great Depression, to lighten the load of those already suffering from the difficult economic conditions. Initially, the Act provided various social programs, which included programs for railway workers, miners who had contracted black lung disease, and Social Security Retirement Insurance benefits. In 1954, a disability insurance benefits program was added for disabled workers, known as Social Security Disability benefits. The Social Security Administration is the government entity tasked with administering Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI.

SSDI for Disabled Workers

SSDI is a payroll-funded federal program that provides benefits to those who have restricted working ability due to a disability. Such disability is usually physical in nature. The SSDI program works to supplement the income of those already working. The benefits can be either temporary and permanent.

SSDI benefits are also applicable for those with psychological disabilities. The Social Security Administration’s website provides a list of those limitations that can be eligible for SSDI.

How to Qualify for SSDI


There are three basic requirements for qualifying for SSDI benefits:

  • The applicant must be able to produce income of $1,170 per month;
  • The applicant’s condition is such that he or she was not able to work for the last 12 months; and
  • The applicant has at least twenty work credits, and those credits were earned within the ten years prior to the application.

A work credit is received for three months of work, or four credits per year. If a person worked five out of the past 10 years, then the person earned 20 work credits. The 20 credit rule is applicable until the age of 42. Thereafter, there is one additional credit required for every year above the age of 42, up to a maximum of 40 credits.

Furthermore, those over the age of 65 are not eligible for SSDI benefits. This applies to individuals with a significant work history. Those who are younger and do not have such extensive work history can qualify through their parents’ work history, if applicable.

Note that a majority of SSDI applications are denied, and over 80% fail on appeal. Therefore, it is imperative to file a proper application the first time. When considering filing an SSDI application, one should seek legal help from a professional who understands the application process and has experience with SSDI filings.

Contrasts and Similarities with Worker’s Compensation Benefits

The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act provides benefits for those who are injured on the job. Similarly, those who suffer from a physical limitation are eligible for SSDI benefits.

However, there are several distinctions between SSDI benefits and Workers’ Compensation benefits. Chiefly, the difference between SSDI and Workers’ Compensation involve severity, duration, and causation. SSDI Benefits are generally available only to those individuals who are totally disabled for at least one year or less than a year if the disability is expected to cause death. The cause of the disability is not relevant, whereas workers’ compensation benefits are available only for work-related injuries resulting in partial or total disabilities, even if they last less than a year.

Note that SSDI issues can result from various ailments. Some are congenital, such as cerebral palsy, and some are the result of bad habits, such as nicotine, alcohol, and drug use. Other issues can be based on family history or non-work-related accidents. Some disabilities may be caused or exacerbated by work-related injuries.

Another significant difference is when benefits may begin. SSDI benefit eligibility can only start with respect to workers when they have worked a substantial amount whereas workers’ compensation can start the day a worker starts his or her job.

The definition of a “disability” is the same for each program. Per Title 20 of the Code for Federal Regulations in Section 404.1505(a) (SSDI),  “the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected to result in death or has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.” The disability must be total in that it precludes the individual making the claim from performing not only his or her “past relevant work,” but also any other work that exists in significant numbers in the regional or national economy. The standard is similar for Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law.


The financial resources used for SSDI benefits are much larger than for workers’ compensation. In 2002, cash paid for SSDI amounted to $65.6 billion. This contrasts with workers’ compensation payments that were $29.2 billion at the time.

Contact an Experienced Attorney Today

If you have been injured and are unable to work, then you should get paid what you deserve. You need an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who understands what you are going through and knows how to advocate on your behalf. Contact the Philadelphia workers’ compensation law firm of Krasno, Krasno & Onwudinjo at 800-952-9640 to learn more about Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation laws and how they apply to you. We do not get paid unless you do.

Scroll to Top