Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The main requirement you must meet in order to be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is that you must be unable to work for at least twelve months.

This is looked as an inability to perform in a “Substantial Gainful Activity.” In order to qualify for SSI (Supplemental Security Income), you must also be unable to work for at least twelve months.

Get insurance rates for private disability coverage with your zip code and the free rate tool provided above!

To better understand your options you need to know how Social Security defines a disability, the levels of impairments, and the steps the administration takes to diagnosis a disability. Private insurance companies are able to set their own criteria.

How does Social Security define a disability?

Any medical physical or mental disability or impairment that can keep you from working for at least twelve months or can be determined to be a life threatening impairment can qualify you to receive Social Security disability benefits. A person can still receive a small income to qualify, but his or her monthly income, as of 2010 qualifications, must be less than $1000.

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Listing Level of Impairments

To support your claim of disability, you should be able to qualify under the “Listing Level of Impairments” that the Social Security Administration lists in their Blue Book. This list includes problems with the musculoskeletal system; the respiratory system; issues with speech and special senses; problems with the cardiovascular, digestive, and endocrine systems; skin disorders; neurological problems; and mental disorders.

The 5 Steps to Collect Disability Insurance from Social Security

The Social Security Administration also uses a process of five steps to help them determine if you are disabled.

  1. The first step deals with looking into your employment. If you are currently employed, and earning more than $1000 a month, then you can most likely not be determined to be disabled. If you are not working, they then look at your condition to determine its severity.
  2. If the condition does not interfere with your ability to work, then they will decide that you are not disabled. If the disability (or condition, as they will call it; they will not say so early on if you are disabled or not) interferes with your ability to perform basic work activities, then you can continue the process.
  3. The third step deals with the List of Impairments. Some conditions are so severe that they automatically qualify you for disability. If your specific condition is not on that list, then they have to determine if it is at least as severe as another on the list. If they can determine that quickly, then they will go ahead and decide that you are disabled. If they cannot do that, but cannot deny that you are disabled, then they will continue the process.
  4. The fourth step of the program deals with the work you did prior to developing the condition that led to your application for Social Security disability insurance. If the condition is severe, but not at the same level of those others on the list, the SSA will want to determine if your condition can still substantially interfere with your ability to continue to do the kind of work you did before the condition’s development. Obviously, if it does not seriously interfere with that ability, then the SSA will deny your claim. If it is obvious that the condition does limit your ability to work in some way, they will go to the fifth step.
  5. The final step in this long process is to determine if you can do any other kind of work. They will look at your conditions, age, past work and education experience, and the various skills you have developed over your life to see if you are able to adjust to some other kind of gainful work. If they decide that you should be able to adjust, then they will not approve your claim for disability.

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Ways to Protect Yourself

The process for filing a successful claim for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income can take a very long time. Many, if not most, people are denied at least once, and usually many more times than that before their claim is finally approved.

It can be an emotionally and financially draining process, especially for someone who is already sick, as well as for his or her family. Cases where people have lost their life savings, or even their homes or (at the very least) their good credit, while waiting for their claim or appeals to be approved are not unheard of.

If you are financially able, you will probably want to look into purchasing some kind of private disability insurance policy for yourself. Use the free quote tools found on this site to get an idea of the options available to you.

Type your zip code into the free rate tool and compare disability insurance quotes today!