Disability, SSI

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

May 30, 2016 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: March 17, 2021

disabled woman with carer in gardenMany people think that disability is something that happens to someone else. Unfortunately, disability is unpredictable and can happen to any person, at any age. Millions of Americans live with disabilities. Disability affects those afflicted and their families.

Social Security’s disability program provides medical and financial support to disabled individuals and their families in a time of need. The Social Security Act sets out a strict definition of disability. We pay benefits to people with a severe medical condition that prevents them from performing substantial work, and expected to last at least one year or result in death. Social Security does not pay benefits for partial disability or short-term disability.

We pay disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The SSDI program provides benefits to disabled or blind people who worked and contributed to the Social Security trust fund as required by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act. The SSI program makes cash assistance payments to aged, blind, and disabled people who have limited income and resources. SSI benefit payments do not come from the Social Security trust fund.

You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. To apply for disability benefits, you will need to complete an application for Social Security benefits. You can apply online. When you visit our website, select “Apply for Benefits,” and follow the link to get a Disability Starter Kit. This kit will help you get ready for your disability interview or online application. If we find you’re eligible for Social Security disability benefits, there’s a five-month waiting period before we can begin your benefits. Applying for benefits as soon as you become disabled will allow for benefits to start sooner.

You can also call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), to make an appointment to apply for benefits at your local Social Security office or to set up an appointment for someone to take your claim over the telephone.

When disability strikes, Social Security is there providing financial support to people when they need it most.

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About the Author

Doug Walker, Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Deputy Commissioner, Office of Communications


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