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How does the qualification process for SSDI work?

Employees in California who become unable to work due to injury or illness might be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. However, it is quite a complicated system, and there might be questions about how to qualify for SSDI benefits. The first requirement is a job history in positions that were covered by Social Security. However, not all medical conditions meet the definition of disability, and when the do, the disability must prevent the person from returning to work for at least one year.

Although benefits will only be paid until the person can return to work, special rules exist that include incentives that could make the return to work easier by continued health care coverage and benefits. Any person who receives Social Security disability benefits at the time of full retirement age will continue to receive the same amount of benefits. However, they will automatically be converted into retirement benefits.

To qualify for SSDI, the person must have earned work credits -- a specific number is required, and they must have been earned within a particular time before the claim. The credits are typically based on total annual wages or income as a self-employed worker, and four credits can be earned per year. The age at which a person becomes disabled will determine the number of credits needed to qualify for benefits. The typical number is 40, of which 20 must have been earned within the 10 years preceding disability. Younger workers who have not yet accumulated 40 credits might also qualify.

The process of applying for SSDI, and knowing whether all requirements are met can be challenging. For that reason, California workers in similar situations typically seek the support and guidance of an attorney who has experience in dealing in all matters related to Social Security. A lawyer can explain the requirements and rights of the applicant, and work to obtain maximum benefits.

Source: ssa.gov, "Benefits Planner: Disability", Accessed on May 17, 2018

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