The Social Security office uses a five-step process to decide if you qualify as disabled. The process consists of five questions about your condition and your previous line of work. Before you can apply, you first must have worked and paid social security taxes for a certain amount of time based on your age when disabled.

The first question that they ask is if you are working. Working won’t necessarily disqualify you from disability, but your earnings need to be under $1,040 per month. Your condition has to interfere for basic work-related activities to be considered severe enough to receive disability.

There is a list of disabling conditions on the Social Security website that are so severe that they automatically qualify you to receive disability.  You can still be classified as disabled if your condition is not on the list, but it does have to be equal in severity to the conditions listed. For some conditions, a confirmed diagnosis is all you need to begin receiving payments. For other conditions, there is a computer screening process that can determine if you qualify or not.

If the condition qualifies and it’s severe enough that you can’t do the work you did previously, then you move forward in the process. If you cannot do the work you did previously, then it will be determined if you are able to adjust to other work. Your age, education, past work experience and skills are all taken into consideration.

Unlike your health insurance, social security only pays for total disability. You are not given a percentage based on partial or short-term disability qualifications.