When we think of disabled workers, we tend to focus on people who are suffering under the strain of many years of physical work combined with advancing age. However, the reality is that anyone can suffer a debilitating injury or illness at any age that prevents them from working and necessitates applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Whatever your age at the onset of disability, if you have paid into the Social Security system long enough, you can apply for—and should be granted—disability benefits. We take a look at qualifying for disability as a younger worker.
Injuries and Illnesses Often Experienced by Younger Workers
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), one in four 20-year-old workers will become disabled before reaching retirement age. Young people are at higher risk of suffering serious career-ending injuries in accidents and other traumas than older people. The leading causes of injury and illness in people under the age of 50, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include the following:
- Falls. Falls are the leading cause of injury for almost all age groups, including 25-54-year-olds. Whether the fall occurs in the workplace, in or around the home, or while exercising, injuries could be severe enough to render the person unable to work.
- Motor vehicle accident. Car accidents are the second-leading cause of injury among people aged 25-34 and rank high for other age groups under 55 as well. Young adult drivers tend to drive faster and take more risks than older drivers, putting them at high risk of suffering a debilitating injury in a car accident.
- Struck by an object. Typical workplace injuries in many industries, accidents that involve being struck by or against an object rank high for young people because they are often the ones performing physical tasks such as moving cargo, working around forklifts, and working in trenches. These accidents can also happen at home as younger people perform home improvement tasks.
- Overexertion. While older people are more easily overexerted, young people performing physical tasks, playing sports, and exercising can also suffer exertion injuries to the back, neck, or joints that prevent them from being able to work.
- Assault. Young people are at higher risk of being physically assaulted than older people. An assault can cause traumatic brain injury or other serious and debilitating injuries.
- Cancer. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 35-44, after unintentional injury. Certain cancers can qualify an applicant for Social Security Disability, depending on the prognosis and effects of treatment.
- Mental illness. People suffering from certain kinds of mental illness can qualify for SSDI if their condition is severe enough to affect their ability to work. For people aged 25-34, suicide is the number two cause of death. Depression, anxiety, and stress disorders can be debilitating for young workers.
These are just a few of the ways young people become disabled and unable to work. In order to qualify for SSDI, however, the applicant must have earned enough work credits, which takes several years of work to accomplish.
Earning Work Credits Takes Time
Social Security disability is an earned benefit. When you contribute to Social Security through your paycheck, you are earning work credits. Unfortunately, people in their 20s often don’t have enough work credits to qualify for disability. In order to apply for SSDI, you must have earned at least 40 work credits. The maximum number of credits you can earn each year is four, and to do that, you must have earned over $5,000 per year and had Social Security tax withheld on your earnings. If you started working at age 15 in a job that withheld taxes, and you worked consistently for the next ten years, you could be eligible for SSDI by age 25.
You Deserve the Benefits You Have Earned
In addition to earning enough work credits, you will also have to show that you meet the SSA’s standards for disability for the condition you have. A majority of applications are denied the first time because people fail to meet deadlines and provide the right kind of evidence. If you believe you should qualify for SSDI, regardless of your age, contact our attorneys for a free case evaluation. If we can help you apply successfully the first time—or we can help you file an appeal on a denied claim—we will explain how we can help. Call our Indianapolis office today!