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Social Security Q&A: How Does Social Security Decide If I am Disabled?

Question: How does Social Security decide if I am disabled?

Answer: For an adult to be considered disabled, Social Security must determine that you are unable to do the work you did before and that, based on your age, education and work experience, you are unable to adjust to any other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy.

Also, your disability must last or be expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

Social Security pays for total disability only. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability (less than a year). For more information, we recommend you read Disability Benefits, available online at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Question: What is the earliest age that I can receive Social Security disability benefits?

Answer: There is no minimum age as long as you meet the Social Security definition of disabled and you have sufficient work to qualify for benefits. To qualify for disability benefits, you must have worked under Social Security long enough to earn the required number of work credits and some of the work must be recent.

You can earn up to a maximum of four work credits each year. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels go up. Currently, the amount is $1,200. The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on the age you become disabled.

For example, if you are under age 24, you may qualify with as little as six credits of coverage. But people disabled at age 31 or older generally need between 20 and 40 credits to qualify, and some of the work must have been recent. For example, you may need to have worked five out of the past 10 years. Learn more at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.

This column was prepared by the Social Security Administration. For fast answers to specific Social Security questions, contact Social Security toll-free at 800-772-1213 or visit www.socialsecurity.gov.