Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Eligibility Criteria by Age

Family of Different Ages

When you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments from the Social Security Administration, it is important to realize that different standards are used to determine your disability based on your age. As an adult, it is hardest to qualify for benefits if you are between the ages of 18-49. The closer you are to full retirement age, the easier it is to qualify for benefits.

Below is a brief overview of what you must establish in order to prove that you meet the medical requirements of disability. These are just general guidelines, so it is always important that you speak to an attorney about your eligibility even if it appears that you will not qualify based on the information below.

Disability Benefits for Individuals Ages 18-49

  • Generally to be found disabled:*
    • You must have a solid work history (have worked in 5 of the last 10 years before becoming disabled and earned sufficient lifetime work credits); and
    • You must have less than $1000/month (in 2010) of earned income; and
    • You must have a medical condition (or a combination of medical conditions) that prevents you from performing any of the work you have done in the last 15 years; and
    • You must be unable to perform any full-time work (regardless of pay or experience).

Disability Benefits for Individuals Ages 50-54

  • Generally to be found disabled:*
    • You must have a solid work history (generally have worked in 5 of the last 10 years before becoming disabled and at least 7-8 years during your lifetime); and
    • You must have less than $1000/month (in 2010) of earned income; and
    • You must have a medical condition (or a combination of medical conditions) that prevents you from performing any of the work you have done in the last 15 years; and
    • You must be limited to lifting no more than 10 pounds of weight; and
    • You must be unable to stand for more than 15 minutes every hour in an 8 hour workday; and
    • There must be no sit-down jobs that exist in the economy that use skills that you have acquired from jobs performed in the last 15 years that you still have the ability to perform today.

Disability Benefits for Individuals Age 55-64

  • Generally to be found disabled:*
    • You must have a solid work history (generally have worked in 5 of the last 10 years before becoming disabled and at least 8.5-10 years during your lifetime); and
    • You must have less than $1000/month (in 2010) of earned income; and
    • You must have a medical condition (or a combination of medical conditions) that prevents you from performing any of the work you have done in the last 15 years; and
    • You must be limited to lifting no more than 20 pounds of weight; and
    • There must be no jobs that exist in the economy that use skills that you have acquired from jobs performed in the last 15 years that you still have the ability to perform today.

Documentation Required to Proof Disability

  • You must have a documented medical impairment; and
  • You must be receiving ongoing care for your medical condition; and
  • You must comply with your doctor’s orders (take medication, attend scheduled appointments); and
  • Your doctor should support your application for disability.

Advantages of Being Found Disabled as Opposed to Early Social Security Retirement

  • Your Social Security Retirement benefits are not reduced (if you begin retirement early your benefits are reduced for the rest or your life); and
  • You are eligible to begin Medicare coverage after 24 months of Social Security disability payments; and
  • You protect your earnings record so that your retirement rate does not decrease.

When to Consider Social Security Disability

  • You are injured in any way that prevents you from performing work;
  • You are diagnosed with a medical condition that prevents you from performing work or is terminal;
  • You retire from work early because you are unable to continue to perform your work

What Happens if You do Not have Sufficient Work Credits to Qualify?

  • If you have limited income and resources, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income Payments (SSI);
  • SSI has the same medical requirements as SSDI, but you also have to establish financial need for eligibility;
  • Social Security also considers income of spouse when determining eligibility.

This is just general information to help individuals that are considering applying for Social Security disability benefits. Please contact our office, the Social Security Administration, or another attorney if your situation matches the criteria discussed above.

* The rules are slightly different for individuals that are illiterate or unable to communicate in English.

This article was written by Steven Butler. Steven is a partner at Linarducci & Butler, PA and his practice is limited to Social Security Disability/SSI claims. Steven offers free initial consultations for Social Security Disability/SSI claims to residents of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. To schedule a consultation with Steven, please use the Linarducci & Butler Contact Form or call 302-613-0707 to schedule an appointment.

Steven Butler

Attorney at Law; Director at Linarducci & Butler, PA
Steven is a partner at Linarducci & Butler, PA. He is licensed to practice law in the State of Delaware and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.He devotes his entire practice to helping individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits.Since his practice is limited to Social Security Disability, he can assist individuals throughout the United States with Social Security Disability/SSI applications and appeals.

Steven has been with the firm since 2003.He has helped over 1,000 clients with Social Security Disability claims, and has represented individuals in several hundred Social Security hearings.

In addition to his legal practice, Steven is avid fan of the Philadelphia Eagles.He is also a runner and enjoys participating in local sports clubs.

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