Social Security Disability Insurance: What It Is and Who Qualifies for It

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides financial benefits from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program to people who are unable to or can no longer work due to certain medical conditions. Regrettably, disabilities that prevent workers from being able to do their jobs are more common than many people think. Some studies show that a little more than one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will face a disability before reaching 67 years of age. 

While many people put a lot of time and hard work into succeeding in their careers, they can neglect to prepare a financial safety net to fall back in case they become disabled. Fortunately, the SSA provides financial benefits to workers who become disabled if they worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. In some cases, the family members of the individuals with disabilities may also be able to benefit from their Social Security Disability Insurance.

Learn About the Requirements for Social Security Disability Benefits

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, you are required to have first worked in jobs that are covered by Social Security. You must have worked for a long enough period of time and recently enough to meet the eligibility requirements of the SSDI program. 

To measure how long you have worked, the SSA distributes work credits based on your total yearly wages or income made through self-employment. Workers are able to earn up to four credits from the SSA each year. However, the amount of wages needed to earn a work credit can change each year, so it is important to check with the Social Security Administration for their updated requirements. 

The other primary requirement for qualifying for SSDI benefits is to have a medical condition that causes total disability. Benefits from SSDI are not payable for individuals with partial disabilities or those who have short-term disabilities. In order to be considered disabled by the SSA, you must:

  • Be not able to do the work you did at your former place of employment.
  • Have had a disability for more than one year, expect to have a disability for longer than one year or have a disability that is terminal.
  • Be determined to be unable to adjust to other forms of work due to your disability.

How to Apply for Social Security Disability Insurance 

It is recommended that applicants apply for Social Security Disability Insurance immediately after they become disabled. This is because the benefits from SSDI will not begin to be distributed until the sixth full month of disability. The waiting period for SSDI benefits begins from the first full month after your disability began.

When applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, the three primary ways are:

  • Online through the secure SSA website.
  • By calling the SSA’s national toll-free number.
    • Hearing impair or completely deaf applicants should call the TTY number, which is toll-free.
  • Visiting your local Social Security office.

Applicants should gather all of the necessary documents and information before they apply for benefits.

Documents Required for a Social Security Disability Application

Some documents that needed during your application for SSDI may include:

  • Your birth certificate or another document that proves your birth.
  • Proof of your United States citizenship or legal immigration status if born outside of the United States.
  • Your military discharge papers if you were in the military prior to 1968.
  • Your W-2 forms or tax returns of self-employment for the previous year.
  • An adult disability report that compiles medical details about your illnesses, injuries or conditions and your prior work history.
  • Any letters of compensation awarded, pay checks or any other types of financial benefits you received in the past year.

What to Do If You Are Denied Social Security Disability Benefits

There are a few steps you can take if your application for Social Security Disability Insurance is denied. First, you will need to file an internet appeal in order to alert the Administration that you would like for them to review your application for SSDI. Depending on why your application was denied, your next step will differ.

If your petition for SSDI is denied for:

  • Medical or health reasons, you can submit the required form online, which is an Appeal Request and Disability Report.
  • Outdated information, you must collect up-to-date details about any medical conditions and treatments, tests or doctor visits you have had since the denial was issued. 
  • Reasons not related to medical, contact your local Social Security office in order to request a review. You can also call the SSA’s toll-free number to request a review.
    • Hearing impair or completely deaf applicants can call the SSA’s TTY number, which is toll-free.

What is the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income?

Although the Social Security Administration run both the SSDI and Social Security Income (SSI) programs, each have differences that influence how they operate. For example, SSDI and SSI generate their funding for payments from different places. SSDI draws from a disability trust fund that workers pay into during their employment while the SSI uses money raised through general tax revenues. 

Another way that these programs differ is by their minimum requirements to qualify. In order to be eligible for SSDI, applicants must meet the criteria for being disabled in addition to making FICA contributions based on earnings. On the other hand, the SSI requires applicants to meet the criteria for being disabled in addition to falling within the income and resource limits of the program.

Additionally, each of these programs uses a different method for figuring out your monthly benefit payments. Participants in the SSDI program will have their monthly payment determined based on the amount of the worker’s lifetime average earnings that are covered by Social Security. Beneficiaries of Workers’ Compensation payments or other public disability benefits may have their SSDI payouts reduced.

SSI beneficiaries will determine their benefit payouts by first using the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR). Then, they will subtract your countable income, which accounts for allowable deductions. Finally, the SSA will add your state’s supplement to the FBR to determine your final payout.