Disability Benefits

You are eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you have a medical condition that will prevent you from working for the next 12 full months. Your disability must prevent you from doing ANY type of work — if you can’t do the type of work you’ve done previously but can still work at another type of job, you won’t qualify. In addition, you must have previous work history to qualify.

You can apply online for disability benefits at http://www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/. You may also want to apply by phone or get help from your local Social Security office. See http://www.ssa.gov/dibplan/dapply.htm for details on applying and getting help in person or by phone.

Processing a disability application can take 3 to 5 months, so you’ll want to apply as soon as you know you’ll need the benefits.


You will obviously need proof of your medical condition before you will be eligible for disability payments. You will need to have a doctor that can vouch for your claim, and you will need to provide past medical records that show you have been treated for the condition that has caused you to file for disability. In addition, your case will be reviewed from time to time to see if you continue to qualify for disability benefits.

Previous Work History A Must

You will only qualify for disability benefits if you have a particular work history duration and if you have worked in the recent past.

To qualify for disability, most people will need at least 5 years of work history in total, and older workers will need at least 5 years of work in the last 10 years. (People younger than 31 basically need to have worked at least half the time since they turned 21 to qualify under the “recent work” provision.) See this publication for exact requirements at all ages.

Your Disabled Child May Also Qualify For Benefits

If you have a disabled adult child, meaning a child with a disability that started before age 22 and is continuing, disability benefits for the child may be available based on your past work record.