How To Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits

Written by
an AbleThrive community member
Content via Community Submission
Community Submission
Written by
an AbleThrive community member

Social Security Disability Benefits can be a tricky topic to navigate. Often, one of the first questions people ask is "How do I qualify?" Disability Benefits Help has provided the following content to help make understanding qualification requirements a little easier.


If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a disability and is unable to work, you might be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. These monthly resources are offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for people of all ages in need. To qualify for disability benefits, you’ll need to meet both technical and medical criteria.

Collage of words that describe what social security is

Technical Criteria for Disability Benefits

There are two forms of long-term disability benefits available for people who are unable to work. Each has its own set of technical eligibility criteria, but medical qualifications will be exactly the same regardless of the program you apply for.

The most common form of disability benefits is Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI. These benefits are available for adults age 18-67 who worked prior to injury, such as someone diagnosed with cancer or someone who was in a serious car crash and is now paralyzed. To qualify for SSDI benefits you need to have earned at least $5,000 in taxable income annually.

The other form of disability benefits is known as Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. These benefits are for people of all ages, so minor children can qualify. To qualify for SSI, you don’t need any work history but you do need to prove you have very limited income and asset resources. Most people who receive SSI have a lifelong disability like autism or cerebral palsy.

Medical Criteria for Approval

The SSA uses its own medical guide colloquially known as the “Blue Book” to evaluate Social Security applicants and deem benefits accordingly. To qualify for disability benefits, you’ll need to be able to show that your condition has the same symptoms or test results outlined in the Blue Book.

For example, a traumatic brain injury will qualify if you’re able to prove that you’re unable to stand without assistance, balance while standing, or walk without a walker or wheelchair for three months after the injury occurred. Paralysis requiring the use of a wheelchair will always medically qualify.

For those with spinal cord injuries, there are three ways to qualify:

1. You have evidence of nerve root compression with pain, limited spinal movement, muscle weakness, and loss of reflex. If your lower back is injured, you should not be able to raise your leg straight in front of you to qualify.

2. You have spinal arachoniditis causing severe pain, requiring you to change positions every two hours.

3. You have lumbar spinal stenosis diagnosed with appropriate medical imaging, resulting in the inability to do any one of the following:

  • Stand from a seated position
  • Balance while standing
  • Walk without a wheelchair, two crutches, or a walker

The entire Blue Book can be viewed online, so you can simply find a listing that matches your diagnosis to get a better idea as to whether or not you’ll qualify.

Starting Your Application

The easiest way to apply is online on the SSA’s website. Any SSDI applicants can complete the entire process online, while SSI applicants can get the ball rolling. If you’re applying for SSI or applying on behalf of a child, you’ll need to complete the process at your local Social Security office.

It usually takes three to five months to hear back from the SSA regarding your claim.

This article was written by the Outreach Team at Disability Benefits Help. They provide information about disability benefits and the application process. To learn more, please visit their website at or by emailing them at AbleThrive would like to thank the Outreach Team for sending us this information to share with our community! 


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