There are four basic requirements that someone must meet in order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits:
(1) Individual must have enough Social Security earnings to be insured for disability;
(2) Individual applies for the benefits;
(3) Individual has a disability, or is not now disabled but had a disability that ended within the 12-month period before the month he applied; and
(4) Individual has been disabled for five consecutive months.
Let's briefly look at each requirement:
(1) Individual must have enough Social Security earnings to be insured for disability
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability Income, one must have worked and contributed to Social Security for at least 40 quarters, or 10 years. The Social Security Administration requires that 5 of those 10 years be in the years before the onset of the disability.
For example, if you were disabled in 2019, the SSA would look at the last 10 years before you were disabled (i.e. 2009-2019) and see if you worked for at least 5 years between 2009-2019. A year is broken into quarters, so it isn't necessary that you worked an entire calendar year to get credit work working a year. But you must have worked at least 20 quarters, which would be 5 years.
So you would need to have worked at least 40 total quarters in order to qualify for SSDI, and 20 of those quarters must have been in the 10 years prior to the onset of your disability.
(2) Individual applies for the benefits
Applying for benefits is addressed in other posts, but you obviously need to apply for SSDI if you want to qualify for and receive SSDI benefits.
(3) Individual has a disability, or is not now disabled but had a disability that ended within the 12-month period before the month he applied
Other posts discuss the definition of disability and how SSA determines if an individual is disabled. In brief, the SSA looks not only at the individual's condition but also whether he/she can perform any type of work a.k.a. their Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).
What can the person do despite his/her limitations? What can a person do on a sustained basis? Can an individual do any job and not just the job he/she had before the onset of the disability?
The 12 month period refers to the statute of limitations to apply for benefits. An individual must apply for benefits within 12 months from when the disability ended. If it has been more than a years since the person is no longer disabled, then he/she cannot apply for benefits.
(4) Individual has been disabled for five consecutive months
Finally, the individual must have been disabled for 5 consecutive months. This may seem like an odd requirement, but it refers to the waiting period that is required for SSDI benefits.
Under Section 223(a)(1) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1)) several criteria must be met before an individual becomes “entitled” to disability benefits. One of those criteria is the individual must complete a “waiting period” of five consecutive calendar months. The waiting period begins on the first day of the month following the month in which the disability commences.
So if someone is disabled on January 15, their waiting period will begin on February 1. Then that person will have to wait 5 months before they are entitled to disability benefits. So their benefits will not begin until 5 months later, or July 1.