How the Social Security Administration Works:

There are medical and non-medical requirements to receive either Social Security Disability or SSI disability benefits.  You don't get benefits unless you meet both the medical and non-medical requirements of either program.  Application of the requirements can be complicated. 

Social Security Disability Non-Medical Requirement:

A claimant must have worked a minimum number of lifetime and recent year calendar quarters and paid Social Security taxes.  This information is usually contained in the Social Security Statement of Estimated Benefits or your Social Security earnings record. 

SSI Disability Non-Medical Requirement:

SSI is a financial need-based program.  An individual must meet the income and resource limitation requirements, which can change yearly. 

Again, understanding the consequences of your earnings record can be complicated and is critically important. 


You can be medically unable to work, but not entitled to any benefits unless you satisfy one of the non-medical or financial requirements. 

Medical Qualifications:


The medical qualifications are the same for the Social Security Disability (SSDI) and SSI disability.  Before the Social Security Administration, there is no such thing as "partial" or "temporary" disability.  The definition of disabled is this:  

You have a severe physical or mental impairment that has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 full months or result in death that prevents you from doing any kind of substantial gainful activity. 

To decide whether you meet this definition of "disabled," the Social Security Administration proceeds through a sequential five-step determination process.  Numerous regulations, rulings, directives, and guidelines spell out how Social Security is to determine whether you meet the definition.  It is, or can be, a complex process.  But, if you have a serious health problem, or a combination of problems, that is substantially interfering with your ability to sustain work activity, you should learn your rights.