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Being unable to work is necessary but not enough for benefits

You have heard it time and time again: if you are unable to work because of a medical condition, you should apply for Social Security disability benefits. Of course, this is a requirement to getting disability benefits, as the government is not going to (intentionally) give disability benefits out to people who are more than capable of working. At the same time, being unable to work is not the only requirement for a disability application to be approved.

First and foremost, an applicant needs to have worked long enough that he or she has earned sufficient Social Security work credits. If an applicant wants Social Security disability insurance benefits instead of Supplemental Security Income, he or she needs to have a work history and enough credits to pass two different earnings tests.

Second, it is not entirely accurate to say that you must have a medical condition that prevents you from working; you can still get disability benefits and work. What the government actually requires is that an individual cannot earn more than $1,070 per month. Earning any more than this or having the ability to earn more than this will lead to a rejected application.

Finally, you must be younger than your full retirement age. If you are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, you are ineligible for Social Security disability benefits.

As you can see, disability benefits is far more complicated than filling out an application. And since it can take three to five months just to get a decision, a mistake could mean a significant delay before you are finally able to get the benefits you need.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Who Qualifies for Social Security Disability Benefits?" Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, June 24, 2014

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