non-medical requirementsThe path to winning Social Security disability benefits is difficult to navigate. It is not enough for you to say you are disabled or even for your doctor to say you are disabled. To qualify, you must prove to the Social Security Administration that the symptoms of mental or physical impairment(s) keep you from getting and holding a full-time job on a consistent basis.

Medical documentation including such things as lab tests, x-rays, MRIs, and written records from your healthcare providers are required to prove to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that you qualify for disability benefits.  However, there are non-medical requirements, as well. They are equally important but all to often only given casual attention by disability applicants. The purpose of the non-medical criteria is to prove to the SSA that you meet eligibility requirements for disability benefits and the information is generally provided by you and your employers and verified by Social Security.

For all disability applicants the SSA will ask about citizenship, residency, employment history, and income. You will also have to provide proof of your age. (Most commonly a copy of a birth certificate is used as proof of age.) Social Security will want to know what kinds of work you have performed in the past to determine if you are able to do any kind of work which you have done previously. You will also be asked about your marital status. While marital status will not have any effect on whether the SSA determines if you are disabled, your spouse’s income can factor into the amount of your monthly disability checks depending on which type of disability you qualify for. We’ll come back to this subject in a moment.

There are two disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance, which is known as SSDI and Supplemental Security Income, commonly referred to as SSI.   SSDI pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are disabled and you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes recently enough.   SSI, on the other hand, is based on financial need.   The Social Security Administration says, “It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income.” (For more on SSDI and SSI read our blog article: The Difference Between Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.)

Non-Medical Requirements for SSDI

In addition to the basic information outlined above, Social Security will review your employment history and your Social Security work credit status. Social Security Disability Insurance eligibility and the amount of benefits payable are based on how much you have worked in the ten years prior to your Social Security disability claim. Work credits are based on the amount of your earnings. In 2023, you receive one credit for each $1,640 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year. Each year the amount of earnings needed for credits goes up slightly as average earnings levels increase. The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on what your age was when your disability began. (This is why you have to submit proof of your age.)


Number of Work Credits Required by Age

Age Disabled  

Credits Needed  

Years of Work  

Under 24








































Non-Medical Requirements for SSI

If you do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits, you may still qualify for Supplemental Security Income. With SSI there are income and asset limits. To be eligible for SSI, your assets must be less $2,000 for an individual and less than $3,000 for a married couple. Assets counted by the SSA can include land, cash, personal property, investments, vehicles, and so on.

In addition, there are earned income and unearned income limits that you may not exceed. In general, the income limit for SSI is the federal benefit rate (FBR), which in 2023 is $914 per month for an individual and $1,371 per month for a married couple. (This is why you have to provide information about your marital status.)  

However, not all income is countable. Some examples of non-countable income include:  

  • The first $65 a month of wages, and the first $20 a month of most other kinds of income,
  • SNAP (food stamps),
  • Tax refunds,
  • Public benefits based on need, and
  • Loans that you have to repay.

In addition, you can deduct any impairment-related work expenses from your countable income.

To show you meet the SSI qualifications you will have to submit copies of financial statements, pay stubs, etc.

Who Determines if You Meet the Non-Medical Requirements?

A Social Security claims rep will evaluate your non-medical eligibility. If the claims rep finds that you do not meet all the non-medical requirements, your claim will be dismissed. If you meet the non-medical requirements then your claim will be passed on to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) which will evaluate the medical part of your claim.

How to Win Social Security Disability Benefits

As you can see from this explanation of non-medical requirements, there are many steps and a considerable amount of paperwork in the Social Security disability process. That is why it is useful to have a knowledgeable guide—a qualified and experienced Social Security disability attorney. For guidance on submitting your claim for Social Security disability benefits call or email the experienced disability attorneys at Cuddigan Law for a free evaluation of your specific situation.  

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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