When to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

If you are diagnosed with a serious illness or injury that hinders your ability to work and is expected to last at least one year (or for the remainder of your life), you may be eligible to apply for benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI). What’s not always clear to most people is when they can officially apply for these benefits. This article attempts to clarify that issue.

How To Apply for Disability Benefits in 3 Steps - Evans Disability

Overview of SSDI

SSDI pays out monthly benefits in the event that someone becomes disabled and cannot work before reaching the age of retirement. Disability claimants must meet specific requirements in order to qualify and be approved, as benefits are only available to those with a severe and long-term total disability.

Generally, a severe condition means an applicant is  unable to carry out the basics of their professional position. A long-term condition is one that has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year.

Someone with a total disability is unable to perform substantial gainful activity for at least one year. In addition, if the applicant is currently working and earning more than a certain amount ($1,550 per month in 2024 for disabled applicants, $2,590 for those who are blind), the Social Security Administration (SSA) is likely to determine the applicant is insufficiently disabled to qualify for SSDI benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – Qualifications

SSDI Work Credits

Another relevant factor in assessing when to apply for SSDI benefits is whether you have a sufficient number of work credits. For context, if you are younger than age 30 when you become disabled, you must have earned at least one work credit each year since you left school. For example, an individual over the age of 30 needs to have earned 20 work credits out of 40 possible quarters in a year. Basically, this means an applicant must have worked five years out of the past ten years.

When it comes to SSDI benefits, there are no income or resource restrictions or thresholds. The disability and number of quarters worked are the only factors determining SSDI eligibility. 

When to Apply for SSDI Benefits

Generally, as soon as someone is diagnosed and becomes disabled, that is the time to apply for SSDI benefits. Some claimants mistakenly believe that they’re only eligible once 12 months have passed since the onset of their disability. This confusion arises from the fact that your condition must be expected to last at least a year, so they wait to “prove it out.” In reality, as long as your medical documentation indicates your disability will last that long, you can apply once your symptoms prevent you from engaging in work activities.

Once you receive your diagnosis, we recommend applying as soon as possible, since it may take up to a year for your application to be processed. A waiting period of five months must also pass between when your condition begins and when you are eligible to receive disability benefits. Applications can be submitted at any time after diagnosis, but payments will not arrive until five months have passed.

If you are not in a position to apply immediately but intend to do so ASAP, you may want to get what’s known as a protective filing date. This means that you let the SSA know in advance that you intend to make a claim. This preliminary notice is important because when you do get around to applying, the date you provide this notification essentially becomes the date of your application.

Speak to an Experienced SSDI Benefits Lawyer

At Bross & Frankel, PA, we can help you with your SSDI claim. We have successfully represented many disability claimants throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware and have taken cases through the various stages of the appeals process. We fight for your right to disability compensation and give you the personal assistance and attention you deserve. To learn more and schedule a free consultation, call 856-210-3345 or contact us online.

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