What is SSDI?

There are two main Social Security programs that provide money and benefits to people who are unable to work because of their medical impairments: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Though the programs are similar, there are key differences in how they’re awarded and the amount of benefits paid. Most people who receive Social Security Disability benefits are on SSDI, but some of you may qualify for both programs.


For close to 60 years the SSDI program has served as a safety net for people whose physical or mental impairments prevent them from keeping a job. Without this social insurance program millions of disabled American workers and their families would face financial hardship and be unable to maintain any sort of quality of life.


This article explains how you can qualify for SSDI benefits and what you can expect if you’re awarded. Call or e-mail Corey Pollard, an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, if you need help understanding your rights or getting approved for SSDI benefits.

Do You Qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits in Virginia?

Social Security taxes finance the SSDI program. Your work history and past earnings, therefore, play a large role in determining whether you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. To receive SSDI benefits in Virginia a person must prove that they meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) definition of disability and have paid Social Security taxes long enough to earn sufficient work credits.

How is Disability Defined under the SSDI Program?

To qualify for Virginia SSDI benefits, you must suffer from a permanent medical condition that keeps you from working. Your physical or mental disability must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year. And it must prevent you from earning more than $1,000 per month.

Do You Have Enough Work Credits for SSDI?

Having worked in the past is not enough to qualify for SSDI benefits – even if you worked for many years. When you worked and how long you worked are more important.


Like any other type of insurance – auto, home, and life insurance – you must have had coverage under the policy on the date of the occurrence to make a claim. If the triggering event happened after your coverage expired, you will not recover benefits or compensation.


For Social Security Disability Insurance benefits the triggering event is your alleged onset date – the date you allege you became unable to work because of your medical impairments. The expiration date for your coverage is called the date last insured (DLI). You must prove that you became disabled before your date last insured to receive SSDI benefits.


So how does the Social Security Administration (SSA) determine your date last insured? By looking at your work credits.


To receive SSDI benefits you must have earned a certain number of work credits. That number depends on your age when you allege you became disabled. You can earn up to four credits each year. The number of credits you receive is based on your earnings from work during that year.


Most of you will need to have earned at least 20 work credits over ten years to establish SSDI eligibility. If you are a younger worker you may obtain eligibility with fewer work credits. Below are the general rules:


  • Age 31 or older. The minimum number of work credits you need to have earned increases as you get older. For example, if you are between 31 and 42 years of age, then you need to have earned at least 20 work credits total. If you are 50 years of age, you need to have earned at least 28 work credits total. And if you are 56 years of age, you need to have earned at least 34 work credits total. At least 20 of the credits must have been earned in the ten years before you allege you became disabled.


  • Age 24 to 31. You need to have earned credits for half of the time between age 21 and when you allege you became disabled. For example if you become disabled at age 29, you would need credit for four years of work (16 credits) during the eight years between ages 21 and 29.


  • Before age 24. To qualify for SSDI you need to have earned at least six credits in the three year period ending when you allege your disability began.


How can you find out how many work credits you have? Contact your local SSA field office. Or, if you have internet access, register for an account on the SSA’s website.

Are You Dependent on Someone Who Qualifies for SSDI Benefits?

Auxiliary benefits, also called dependents’ benefits, are available to people who rely on family members who qualify for SSDI.


You do not have to be disabled, or have sufficient work credits, to receive auxiliary benefits based on a family member’s entitlement to SSDI. Below are people who may qualify for auxiliary benefits under the SSDI program:


  • Divorced spouse of an insured disabled worker: You qualify for auxiliary benefits if a) you are at least 62 years of age and b) you were married to the disabled worker for at least ten years.


  • Divorced spouse of an insured worker who has not filed for SSDI benefits but has coverage: You may qualify if a) your former spouse is 62 or older, b) you are 62 or older, c) you were married for at least ten years, and d) you have been divorced for at least two years.


  • Older spouse of an insured disabled worker: You will receive auxiliary benefits if a) you are at least 62 years old, 2) have been married for at least one year, and c) you are not entitled to a disability insurance or retirement benefit that is more than half of your spouse’s monthly payment.


  • Disabled widow or widower: You can claim benefits through your spouse’s earnings if you are a) between 50 and 60 years of age and b) you are the surviving or divorced spouse of a worker who received regular retirement benefits or SSDI.


  • Dependent, unmarried child: A child may receive insurance benefits based on the earnings of an insured parent or deceased parent who was insured at death if a) the child is under 18 years of age, b) the child is 18 or 19 but is a full-time student, or c) the child is over 18 but was disabled before age 22.

When Do I Start Receiving SSDI Benefits? The 5 Month Waiting Period

One of the most frequent questions I get from current and potential clients is, “When do I start receiving SSDI benefits if I’m approved?”


Like most state workers’ compensation systems the SSA imposes a waiting period on the receipt of benefits – even if you’re found disabled. There is a five month waiting period for SSDI benefits.


If your application for SSDI is approved, your first Social Security benefit will be paid for the sixth full month after the date that the SSA finds you disabled. This date is known as your established onset date of disability.


The waiting period for SSDI benefits is easier to explain with an example:


Let’s say that you go to a hearing and the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) finds you disabled as of May 10, 2015. Your first monthly benefit payment would be paid for the month of November 2015, which is your sixth full month of disability.


Why does the SSA have a waiting period? Good question. In my opinion there should be no waiting period for SSDI benefits.

Should I Get Attorney Representation for My Virginia SSDI Claim?

Due to an increase in the number of applications for SSDI, the shrinking amount of funds available to pay the benefits, and the volume of applications decided, the majority of SSDI claims are denied at the inital application level. At the reconsideration stage of appeal, more than 80% of SSDI claims are denied.


The standard for receiving is SSDI benefits in Virginia is strict. Given how difficult it has become to get approved, having the best Social Security attorney on your side can be very helpful.


Having representation ensures that you will know and understand your options, that your case is being presented effectively to the SSA, and that you won’t have to deal with paperwork. The SSDI application process is overwhelming. Having a disability lawyer on your side helps.


If you are disabled and feel that you should be entitled to SSDI benefits, call or e-mail our SSDI lawyers Richmond VA today for a free, no strings consultation.