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Can you satisfy the requirements for SSD benefits?

Although financial advisors encourage people to be prepared for the unexpected, the reality is that most people are not. Statistics provided by the Council for Disability Awareness estimate that 1 in 4 people will experience some form of unexpected long-term disability before they retire. The average length of the disability, measured in terms of the length of the disability claim is 34.6 months. If unexpected long-term disability strikes, many people will struggle to pay their bills and stay afloat financially unless they have the assistance of SSD benefits. For this reason, it is important to understand the eligibility criteria to receiver SSD benefits.

In order to be eligible for SSD benefits, a person must prove both a disability that results in an inability to work and satisfy an earnings test. Federal law defines a disability very specifically as a medical condition that prevents a person from working and that is expected to cause death or last for at least one year. People experiencing shorter-term disabilities are not eligible for SSD benefits.

The earnings test has two separate components: a duration and a time period component. Depending on a person's age when he or she becomes disabled, the rules require that the person have worked a certain amount of time within a certain time period in order to be eligible. This is described as the "recent work" requirement.

In addition, a person must have worked for a certain length of time prior to filing for benefits. As a person's age increases, so does the number of years of work required. For example, a person filing for benefits at age 44 must have worked for at least 5.5 years to satisfy the duration requirement. To meet the "recent work" requirement, five of those years of work must have occurred during the ten-year period immediately preceding when he or she filed for benefits.

Source: Socialsecurity.gov, "Disability Benefits," last accessed July 28, 2014

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