Suffering from a disability can be a frustrating experience, and that’s without getting into any of the physical or mental impairments themselves. The process of proving a disability and getting assistance can seem like an uphill battle. Wouldn’t it be better if your condition automatically qualified you for disability?

Unfortunately, the system doesn’t work that way. Even those with the most debilitating of illnesses need to go through the process of applying and then qualifying for disability benefits. But this doesn’t mean that the process itself will necessarily be hard, and certain conditions will be easier to qualify with than others.

To learn more, we’re going to dive into the topic of qualifying for disability in Georgia. We’ll start by looking at what criteria is needed to qualify as disabled, what work credits are and why they’re important for qualifying for disability benefits, as well as which conditions are more likely to qualify you for benefits.

What Criteria is Needed to Get Disability Benefits?

Not every disabling condition is able to receive disability benefits. There are certain criteria that a condition must meet in order to qualify an individual to be regarded as disabled. These factors are the same across every state, but applications for disability benefits are done at the state-level.

The first major condition that must be met is that your condition is not a short-term disability or a partial disability. These can both have a profound impact on an individual’s life, but they aren’t so severe or last long enough to have the type of negative impact on your life that a condition has to have to be considered a disability.

In order to have all the criteria necessary to qualify for disability benefits, you must:

  • Be unable to work or engage in substantial gainful activities because of your condition
  • Be unable to do the work you had previously been doing, as well as be unable to adjust to other work
  • Have a condition that has lasted (or is projected to last) at least a year, or the condition is expected to result in your death

However, in addition to these, if you want to qualify for disability benefits then you must have enough work credits. Let’s learn more about what these are and how they work next.

What Are Work Credits and Why Are They Important?

In order to qualify for disability benefits, you must have a certain number of work credits. Your age can affect this, but most people need 40 credits. In addition, 20 of those 40 credits have to have been earned in the last ten years. This may seem a little complicated, but if you’ve worked a regular job for a few years then you’re probably okay.

Basically, most working Americans get 4 work credits every year. This has been how it works since 1978. Credits themselves are based upon the wages or self-employment income you earn. While the amount of income needed to earn a credit changes every year, you can only earn four credits regardless of how much you make. So somebody that worked as a high-earning banker and somebody that worked in a fast food restaurant would each earn 4 credits in a given year.

In 2022, a credit is earned for every $1,510 you make. This means that once you earned $6,040 you will have earned all 4 credits. This money does, however, have to be under Social Security. This means that if you were paid under the table, you wouldn’t be earning credits regardless of the total dollar amount gained.

40 credits would take ten years of working to earn. In addition, half need to be earned within the last ten years. So if you’ve worked your whole life, you will have more than enough credits. Depending, that is, on your age. Younger workers would seem to be at a disadvantage here. But this is where age can affect the number of credits you need. Younger individuals may be able to gain disability benefits with less credits than an older worker.

Somebody who has worked for more than ten years is likely to have more than 40 credits. Unfortunately, this does not change the size of your disability payments. The size of the payment is based on the average earnings you’ve had throughout your working years, not the number of credits that you have. So, as long as you have 40 credits (or less if you are younger), then you can gain benefits but how much you made overall will be what determines how much those benefits will pay.

What Conditions Are More Likely to Meet the Qualifications for Disability in Georgia?

The Social Security Administration offers some examples of the types of disabilities that would qualify you for disability benefits. These include:

  • Cancer like lung cancer or other malignant neoplastic diseases
  • Cardiovascular system disorders like chronic heart failure
  • Congenital disorders, especially those that attack multiple systems of the body
  • Digestive system disorders like liver dysfunction
  • Endocrine disorders like thyroid gland disorders
  • Genitourinary disorders like diabetic nephropathy or chronic obstructive uropathy
  • Hematological disorders like blood-forming organs
  • Immune system disorders like HIV infection
  • Mental disorders like bipolar disorder or depression
  • Musculoskeletal disorders like spine injuries
  • Neurological disorders like epilepsy
  • Respiratory disorders like emphysema or chronic bronchitis
  • Skin disorders like burns or chronic skin infections
  • Special senses and speech disorders like blindness

Is There Any Way to Improve My Chances of Qualifying for Disability?

While there is nothing that will necessarily guarantee that you qualify, one of the most important factors for qualifying is the evidence that you provide to prove your disability. Some disabilities are going to be harder to prove than others; for example, mental disorders like depression can be truly debilitating but they can be harder to prove since they don’t have any type of physical appearance.

Working with an experienced disability attorney can improve your chances for qualifying because they understand what goes into qualifying, how to put together the best possible application, and how to fight against a denial. While it’s impossible to guarantee success, the odds are always much more in your favor when you work with a qualified and experienced professional.