As with most legal matters, there’s no specific formula to figure out when it’s time to file a claim for disability benefits, just several factors to consider.
Probably the most important thing to remember is that the disability program is only for people who have stopped working, or whose earnings have dropped below substantial gainful activity ($1,220 per month as of 2019).
No matter what medical conditions you may have been diagnosed with, if you are working and your earnings rise above that amount, you do not qualify for Social Security disability.
Another factor to consider is your medical impairments and how often you are treating. Social Security rules require that your impairment must have lasted, or be expected to last, 12 months.
A serious condition that may take months to recover from, such as pneumonia, or even some types of cancer, is not grounds to file a Social Security disability claim. Chronic conditions, such as COPD or back and knee pain make for much stronger disability claims.
You should also be treating regularly for your conditions. If you have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, but haven’t seen a counselor in years, Social Security will not consider that to be a severe impairment resulting in disability.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider about filing for disability is your age. Social Security’s rules make it easier for individuals over the age of 50 to be awarded benefits because at that point they take into account that it is harder for older individuals to find and be re-trained for employment.
Of course, that’s not to say that younger individuals with serious medical conditions can’t qualify for disability, it just means that these cases are often more difficult to prove.