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


  1. Ed

    I just filed for SS benefits as I’ve reached by FRA. My wife previously filed under her own work record at age 62. I believe her benefits will increase under spousal benefits. Must she file again for spousal benefits or will the SSA automatically review her record and start paying her an increase if she is entitled? Thanks.

    • Ray F.

      Good question Ed. If your wife qualifies for a higher benefit amount on your record, she would have to file an application. Please continue working with the office or agent that is processing your application. Please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 for further assistance. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Thanks!

  2. ruffas a.

    my wife is totally disabled and 80 years of age.she only receives her regular retirement.i am 82 years old and received my ss . I fufnach all yhe help. can I get any help .I am getting to the point where I cant help her .what do I do now

    • Ray F.

      Hello Mr. Johnson. You and your wife may be eligible to receive other assistance from the state where you live. These services include Medicaid, free meals, housekeeping help, transportation or help with other problems. You can get information about services in your area from your state or local social services office. You can also visit the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) web page for more information. We hope this helps.

  3. DIANA

    Can hold down a full time job and still get Social Security and Medicare?

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question Diana. We have Work Incentives that allow people to work and still receive their benefits. A person may still be eligible for disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance program if they work. However, their earnings cannot exceed a certain amount. This is called the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limit. In 2016, the SGA limit is $1,130 per month (or $1,820 for blind applicants). In addition to the amount of money you make, Social Security may also look at the number of hours you’re able to work. We hope this information helps.

  4. Thomas C.

    When is Congress going to realize that the cost of living has been going up everywhere on everything through out the year. Just because it may go down slightly for one or two months shouldn’t prevent COLA increases. Look at how many people today have been added to submitting for public assistance due to low wages and high prices of basic needs. Cost Of Living Adjustments is badly needed and way behind in getting it adjusted in today inflation.

  5. donna

    I worked for 40 years and became disabled in2013. I have had a spinal neck fusion and also have schirrosis of the liver and liver disease and suffer from depression. I have been turned down three times, I finally got an approval for disability, I got no back pay, I cannot receive the medicare for 2 more years. can not get help from fcps for medical help. the judge had issues with my lawyer and I ended up not getting any back pay ,I was already in the system before the new law was passed I have had no income for 3 years and now what? I feel that I should receive my back pay since I paid into this and made very good money. so now I am suppose to just die because my health does not matter, well you tell that to my children and grandchildren. is there a lawyer out there who can help me. my lawyer and the judge clashed in court and I believe that I did not get my back pay because the judge did not want my lawyer to get paid……

    • Michael

      Donna, you may be able to file a complaint against you attorney and the judge that fought with your attorney. To do this you should get a hold of your states Attorney General and they can give you the information you need. Then get the paperwork and file against those two for improper way they handled themselves, believe it or not there are rules and laws against what they did especially the judge he is not allowed to do that to you because of not liking your attorney.
      You then may be able to get a new hearing and either force you attorney to represent you without cost to you as your attorney did not represent you properly and within the rules and laws of the state you are in . The judge would be either replaced per your request or ordered to properly rehear your case.
      Or you can also ask your State Attorney Generals office to recommend an attorney or they may have the States Bar Association give you a recommendation.
      You should also file a complaint with your States Bar Association, I believe that is what the States Attorney General will recommend you do and you can file against both your attorney and the judge that was over your case.
      Sounds to me like you do have a case against both of them for their conduct in the courtroom and on the bench.
      I hope it works out for you !
      Also you may want to know while you are waiting to be paid there is a little known rule that if SSDI knows you will be eligible for payment and you have to wait you could get paid from SSI until you start receiving your SSDI payment. You need to ask about that program, not sure what the name of it was , just tell them about it they will know.
      Good Luck !

  6. Louise O.

    I have a Question I am unable to work due to my legs and other health issues , I have applied for Social Security Disability turned downed they claim I didn’t have enough credits. My question is can I file for early Social Securityy ? I am 61 years old and can not work, what can I do ?

  7. JD

    I am on SSD, and have been for a few years. When I applied, I was turned down several times and I had to get a lawyer. At that time no one wanted disability cases because they didn’t make any money. I search for a long time and I found some, but they were burned out and had gotten rather insensitive and mean. I finally found someone in a small town who took my case. It was a year and a half battle. My family and attorney helped me through this horrible ordeal. I was humiliated, discredited, and made to feel like I was less of a human being that should not be bothered with, just scraped off their shoe. The only thing that really keep me alive was my children, they were young and needed me. I am grateful for finally getting SSD, but it was at a high cost to me. My mental state was already fragile, they pushed me over the edge and it has and continues to be a battle. I was raised to work every minute of the day helping, doing, taking care of my family and community. I basically almost worked myself to death caring for family in need, my own family, and my community. I hope when I finally pass on, God will convince me it was OK I failed to take care of everyone because I got sick. I hope the system is better now and gives people respect so they don’t go through what I did. Good luck and God Bless.

    • teresa

      Well they are stillvthe same assholes and In god will I trust.
      I want to live. I dont no wat is worst. A life sentence or ssdi. They will kill you. We the people we can fight ,and our OUR GREAT NATION ALLOW US TO VOTE. Use ur god given right fight god dont like cry babies. Can to type.

  8. vjones

    If you retire prior to your fill retirement age then yes you do receive a reduced amount. Add it up. if you wait to you reach full retirement you receive more money monthly. If you retire early the benefit you receive each month is less but at the end of the day the payments in total average the same amount or more than you would have received by waiting for full retirement age. it is about your life span, $733 * 240 months (20 years) = $175,950
    $1,000 * 120 months (10 years) = $120,000.
    Due the math when you plan your retirement. When you get closer to full retirement you can also work and receive your full retirement check.

  9. Cindi

    what do you mean by holding back 33%?

    • Cindi

      Sorry….I messed up and did that wrong.

  10. Joe F.

    Those on SSDI did not get a raise this year due to the people in the Senate and House using to reason that gas prices were down. I personally gave up driving as I cannot afford a car note nor the insurance. I don’t know why they did not consider that the price of groceries has quadrupled as they don’t buy groceries, they use the credit cards that they get from the government. To make this simple, we pay for their food. They should be ashamed of themselves for their personal greed. Not many peoply know that if you are on Social Security Disabilty before your 65, they hold back 33% of what you should be awarded. I worked for 38 years, paid into the system, just to be duped by those we elect. We deserve better and not to be robbed. I’m a very educated person and will never digest how our government is allowed to cheat us out of our money..

    • Cindi

      what do you mean by holding back 33%?

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