What Is the Social Security Disability 5-Year Rule? - NerdWallet (2024)

The Social Security disability five-year rule allows people to skip a required waiting period for receiving disability benefits if they had previously received disability benefits, stopped collecting those benefits and then became unable to work again within five years.

The Social Security disability five-year rule makes the reapplication process easier for those who have worked intermittently but have a disability that, more than once within five years, prevents them from working.

Here’s what to know about how to qualify — and requalify — for Social Security disability insurance, or SSDI, benefits.

How do Social Security disability benefits work?

SSDI benefits have strict rules around who qualifies. These include rules regarding how long you have been disabled, when you apply and how long you worked before you became unable to work due to a qualifying disability.

Generally, you’re entitled to disability benefits if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • You have a qualifying disability. The Social Security Administration, or SSA, defines disability as a “medically determinable physical or mental impairment” that has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months. This condition must make you unable to do the work you did before or any other “substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy.” Different rules apply if you are blind or applying for survivors benefits.

  • You apply for SSDI benefits before your full retirement age. Full retirement age for Social Security is the age at which a person is entitled to 100% of their monthly Social Security retirement benefit. It ranges from 66 to 67. The SSA determines a person’s full retirement age based on their birth year.

  • You worked for at least five of the 10 years before your disability. Social Security awards people “credits” when they work and pay Social Security taxes. You can earn up to four credits per year of work. SSDI benefits require 40 work credits to qualify, 20 of which you earned within the 10 years before your disability. Workers earn a credit, known as a “quarter of coverage,” for every $1,730 on which they pay Social Security taxes in 2024. The SSA refers to qualifying with credits as being “insured” for your disability .

  • You have been disabled for five consecutive months. Due to this rule, you’ll receive your first benefit payment starting in the sixth month after you apply. However, if you’re found to have been eligible for SSDI benefits earlier due to disability onset, you can receive retroactive payments for up to the previous 12 months. And if you previously received SSDI benefits within the past five years, the SSDI five-year rule waives the five-month waiting period so you can resume benefits immediately.

How much will I get from SSDI benefits?

Your disability benefit payment from Social Security depends on your lifetime earnings. The SSA website has a calculator to estimate your monthly benefit payment.

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What Is the Social Security Disability 5-Year Rule? - NerdWallet (2)

How do I apply for disability benefits?

The SSA recommends applying for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. However, you may be able to receive back-paid benefits for up to the previous 12 months.

Here’s how to apply:

You can help someone else apply for disability benefits without being an authorized representative. You may need to answer additional questions about your relationship to the benefit recipient, and the recipient will need to electronically or physically sign the application.

What Is the Social Security Disability 5-Year Rule? - NerdWallet (2024)


What Is the Social Security Disability 5-Year Rule? - NerdWallet? ›

The Social Security disability five-year rule makes the reapplication process easier for those who have worked intermittently but have a disability that, more than once within five years, prevents them from working.

What is the 5 year rule for Social Security disability? ›

The Social Security five-year rule is the time period in which you can file for an expedited reinstatement after your Social Security disability benefits have been terminated completely due to work.

What is the 12 month rule for SSDI? ›

Your condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work-related activities, such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, or remembering – for at least 12 months. If it does not, we will find that you do not have a qualifying disability.

What can cause you to lose your Social Security disability benefits? ›

Two things can cause us to decide that you no longer have a disability and stop or suspend your benefits:
  • If, after completing a 9-month Trial Work Period (TWP), you work at a level we consider substantial. ...
  • If we decide that your medical condition has improved and you no longer have a disability.

What is the easiest disability to get approved for? ›

What Is the Most Approved Disability? Arthritis and other musculoskeletal system disabilities make up the most commonly approved conditions for social security disability benefits. This is because arthritis is so common. In the United States, over 58 million people suffer from arthritis.

At what age does Social Security disability payments stop? ›

Your period of disability ends on the last day of the month before the month in which you become 65 years old or, if earlier, the last day of the second month following the month in which your disability ended. (1) The month before the month in which you attain full retirement age as defined in § 404.409.

What is considered to be a permanent disability? ›

Permanent disability (PD) is any lasting disability from your work injury or illness that affects your ability to earn a living. If your injury or illness results in PD you are entitled to PD benefits, even if you are able to go back to work.

What is the 5 10 rule for SSDI? ›

Under the five-year rule, people 31 and older must have worked at least five out of the last 10 years to be eligible for SSDI. You may work for less than an entire year and still earn the maximum credits.

What is the 5 10 rule Social Security disability? ›

If you become disabled before your full retirement age, you might qualify for Social Security disability benefits. You must have worked and paid Social Security taxes in five of the last 10 years.

What is maximum SSDI payment? ›

The maximum monthly benefits for SSI, SSDI, and retirement in 2024: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – The maximum payment is $943 monthly for individuals and $1,415 monthly for couples. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – The maximum payment is $3,822 a month (up from $3,627 in 2023).

How hard is it to lose disability benefits? ›

Your disability benefits can be taken away only if the evidence shows that: you've had medical improvement. that medical improvement is related to your ability to work, and. you now have the ability to engage in substantial gainful activity.

What is the most hours you can work on disability? ›

When you work for yourself, you can work hours without receiving an hourly wage. In that case, the SSA will look at how many hours you've worked, plus your monthly income. Social Security typically allows up to 45 hours of work per month if you're self-employed and on SSDI. That comes out to around 10 hours per week.

Does Social Security Disability monitor your bank account? ›

Social Security: Can the SSA Check Your Bank Accounts if You're On Disability? The Social Security Administration can only check your bank accounts if you have allowed them to do so. For those receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the SSA can check your bank account because they were given permission.

What gives 100% disability? ›

Certain single severe injuries or conditions, such as the loss of two limbs or blindness, automatically result in a 100 percent disability rating.

Why do most people get denied for disability? ›

Not Enough Medical Evidence

Insufficient documentation of a disability is arguably one of the top reasons that SSDI claims are rejected. The SSA must have hard evidence that an individual is not only disabled but also meets the SSA's definition of disabled.

What disabilities are hard to prove? ›

What Disabilities Are Hard to Prove? Your Guide to Invisible and Hard-to-Prove Disabilities
  • Chronic Pain.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Mental Health Conditions.
  • Migraine Headaches.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
  • How Can I Qualify with a Disability That Is Hard to Prove?
Mar 22, 2024

How much money a year can you make on Social Security disability? ›

If you earn more than the SGA while on SSDI, you can lose your benefits. However, there are exceptions if you decide to go back to work. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), SGA means making more than $1,350 per month in 2022. The limit changes under certain circ*mstances.

How do I get the $16728 Social Security bonus? ›

Have you heard about the Social Security $16,728 yearly bonus? There's really no “bonus” that retirees can collect. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a specific formula based on your lifetime earnings to determine your benefit amount.

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