What are Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)?

Social Security disability insurance benefits (DIB)
are benefits for those people who are disabled under Social Security's rules, and have worked enough to qualify.

Who Qualifies?

To qualify for Social Security disability, you must:
(1) have worked enough in the past to qualify, and
(2) be unable to work.

How Much Must You Have Worked?

The general rule looks at how much you have worked in the last 10 years, or 40 "calendar quarters."  Each year has 4 calendar quarters.  The rule is that you must have worked enough to have at least 20 "covered quarters" during the last 40 quarters.

The rule is different for adults under 31 (less of a work history is required).


To have a "covered quarter," you must have earned a certain amount in wages or from self-employment.  The amount needed changes almost every year.  In 2012, you must make $1,130 in order to have one covered quarter.

How does Social Security decide whether your condition keeps you from working?

There are five steps in that process:

     Step 1: Are you working now?

Obviously, if you’re working full-time now, it will be hard to prove you can’t work.  If you’re working now, Social Security will look mostly at how much you’re earning.  If you’re earning less than $1,010/month, Social Security probably won’t hold it against you.  If you’re earning more than $1,010/month, they probably will.  This figure can increase every year, so keep in mind that it was less in previous years.

     Step 2: Do you have a severe medical problem?

A non-severe medical problem won’t qualify you for disability even if you aren’t working.

     Step 3: Is your problem severe enough to qualify you automatically?

Social Security agrees that certain problems are so severe that if you have them, you automatically qualify.  Example: if you are missing both hands.  If you have one of these problems, you win without proceeding to Step 4.

     Step 4: Can you do any of the work you used to do?

Social Security looks at the work you’ve done in the last 15 years and decides if you can still work one of these jobs.  If Social Security decides that you can, you do not qualify for disability.

     Step 5: Can you do any kind of job?

Even if you can’t do what you used to do, if there is any job in your area that you can do, you won’t qualify for disability.  But if there are no jobs you can do, then you will qualify for disability.