How long must I be unable to work to be eligible for Social Security Disability? There is no particular amount of time that you have to be not working in order to apply for Social Security Disability but the test of disability for Social Security is whether or not your condition is so severe that you will be unable to work for 12 continuous months. What that means is that you don’t have to wait to be off work for 12 months but you do have to have a serious condition. We regularly help people apply for Social Security disability benefits prior to they’re being off work for one year. So I don’t really suggest that people wait a long time to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. Once it becomes clear in consultation with your doctor that you’re going to be off work for a very extended period of time, that would be a good time to apply.