About Disability Benefits
Those who have been unable to work for 12 continuous calendar months because of a physical or mental condition may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits based upon prior earnings or those of a deceased spouse. Benefits are earned based upon premiums you paid into the system while employed. The amount of the benefit will depend upon the total premiums you paid over the years. Currently the law requires you to show earnings in 20 of the 40 calendar quarters prior to becoming disabled. Five out of the prior 10 years of employment may also be used.
There is a two-step analysis that the Social Security Administration and the independent administrative law judge uses to determine if your particular condition qualifies you as being legally disabled. The first step examines the question of whether your conditions meet or exceed a set of standards listed for impairments. Meeting these standards, regardless of your age, education, or work experience, would justify finding you disabled.
Residual Function Capacity
Sometime the conditions themselves do not qualify you as disabled. In this event, the next step is to examine your remaining physical and mental capacity to perform any work at all. This is known as your "residual function capacity." It is combined with other factors, such as age, education, and prior work experience, and compared to a grid system to determine whether you are found to be disabled.