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5 Criteria to Qualify for Disability Benefits in Arizona

If you’re disabled and out of work, you might be eligible for financial assistance through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This cash payment program is available to people who meet the federal definition of “disabled” in addition to other qualifying criteria.

Roughly a quarter of adults in the United States live with some disability, but many of these people wouldn’t actually qualify for disability benefits. In fact, SSDI applicants are often denied on first submission.

So How Do You Qualify for Disability Benefits?

For anyone applying, the first step in qualifying is meeting the definition of disabled as spelled out by the Social Security Administration (SSA). In 2017, about 98,000 people in Arizona received disability payments. The conditions that qualified them were typically quite serious or even terminal.

Even if you’re not ready to apply, you can visit the SSA online to get a sense of whether your condition is included. To start receiving payments, most people can expect to go through an application process, answer a series of questions and be prepared to provide supporting documentation.

Applicants typically must meet these qualifying factors:

1. You Meet the Definition of Disability under the Social Security Administration

A person is considered disabled if they are unable to work due to a severe medical condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least one year. The condition must prevent them from doing their job or adjusting to a different line of work.

Of course, it can be difficult to know how long you will miss work as a result of a disability. When applying, you’ll be asked a series of questions to determine whether you’re able to continue supporting yourself. You might have to show evidence or explain that your condition is severe enough that you’re unable to make enough money to support yourself.

If you do qualify for disability benefits you’re still allowed to earn money, but earnings must be under a Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) amount determined by the government. In 2021, the monthly limit for non-blind people is $1,310; for blind people it’s $2,190.

2. Health Conditions that Qualify

Dozens of health issues are considered as possible qualifying conditions for SSDI. Some common ones include:

  • Musculoskeletal issues such as spinal fractures
  • Certain cardiovascular conditions such as heart failure
  • Severe vision impairment or hearing loss
  • Debilitating breathing conditions such as COPD

Your waiting time might be shorter, however, if you qualify under Compassionate Allowances. This initiative was created to quickly identify diseases and conditions that meet the criteria for disability benefits. If you qualify, your chances might automatically be higher for receiving SSDI. The list includes rare, life-threatening diseases, certain cancers, and brain disorders.

3. You’ve Paid Social Security Taxes

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays benefits to you, and sometimes to certain family members, based on how much you’ve already paid into Social Security through your work history. But your income level doesn’t determine your payment amount. To qualify you just need to have worked long enough – and recently enough – and paid Social Security taxes on those earnings.

4. You’ve Accrued Enough Work Hours

With the exception of blind people, a disabled person’s work history is the basis for eligibility under this program. As a result, the benefits amount is also based in part on your average lifetime earnings. The program has a system for quantifying “credits” based on an applicant’s work history.

In other words, whether you are eligible for disability benefits could also depend on how many “credits” you have earned. The formula is a bit complicated, as it combines both your age and years worked to determine how many credits you have. The number of credits necessary to meet the recent work guidelines also varies depending on your age group. For example:

  • The credit formula for someone who becomes disabled at age 27 isn’t the same as it is for someone who becomes disabled at 31.
  • The number of years you need to have worked increases the older you get.
  • So, while a 30-year-old generally needs to have accrued two years of work, that amount is seven years of work for someone who is 50.

5. You Have Records

It’s important to have medical records to back up your claims. To apply, you’re expected to provide documentation about your earned income, work history, and disability. Medical records must show that you have received treatment for the injury or illness that contributes to your inability to work. Those records might come from a doctor or other healthcare professionals, or a professional service such as a Social Security Disability lawyer.

Assistance in Determining If You Might Qualify for Disability

If you need a lawyer specializing in Social Security Disability or have questions about how to qualify for SSDI, fill out our online form or call us at 480-508-8800 to schedule a free case evaluation.