To be eligible for SSDI, individuals must have insured status as former workers, or be eligible on the insured status of a specific relative like a parent or spouse.

To be eligible for SSDI benefits an individual must:

  • Be determined medically disabled by SSA rules;
  • Earn under the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA—defined as $900 in 2006 or, if blind, $1,500 in 2006) or not be working; and
  • Have insured status either as a former worker, or disabled widow/widower of a spouse who is a former worker. Minor children of former workers and their non-disabled parent may receive benefits on the former worker’s record.

You must also meet the following income and asset limits:


  • Limited to SGA of $900 in 2006 (or, if blind, $1,500)

Asset Limit

  • No asset limit

Substantial Gainful Activity

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is measured against countable income. Impairment – Related Work Expenses can be used to reduce an individual’s countable income.

Earned Income Threshholds Defining SSDI Eligibility
  2006 2007
Substantial Gainful Activity (Non-Blind) $860/month $900/month
Substantial Gainful Activity (Blind) $1,450/month $1,500/month
Trial Work Period Month $620/month $640/month

To be eligible for SSDI, individuals must have insured status as former workers, or be eligible on the insured status of a specific relative like a parent or spouse. To establish insured status for benefits, individuals need 20 quarters of coverage (payment of Social Security taxes—FICA) in the 10 years before their disability started (those disabled before the age of 31 need less work to qualify).

  • In addition to meeting our definition of disability, you must have worked long enough–and recently enough–under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits.
  • Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year.
  • The amount needed for a credit changes from year to year. In 2007, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,000 of wages or self-employment income. When you’ve earned $4,000, you’ve earned your four credits for the year.
  • The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled.
  • Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

These rules are complex and the practitioner should always confirm their findings with SSA.

Grace Period

If Social Security decides to terminate an individuals SSDI benefits, it pays his/her SSDI benefits for the month the disability ceased, due either to medical improvement or your work at the SGA level, plus the next 2 months. This is called the “grace period.” Then, Social Security stops paying benefits.

It should be noted that Cessation and the Grace Period often occur during the EPE, but might not necessarily, depending on the beneficiary’s earnings.

Be careful when assisting individuals in determining Medicare cessation/termination.

IMPORTANT: Remember that whatever your age is, an individual must have earned the required number of work credits within a certain period ending with the time you become disabled. A Social Security Statement shows whether an individual meet the work requirement at the time it was prepared. If you stop working under Social Security after the date of the Statement, you may not continue to meet the disability work requirement in the future.