If You Have a Disability, Social Security Can Help

October 8, 2015 • By

Father and two daughters October is Disability Awareness Month. For Social Security, disability is always at the forefront of our conversations. We hear stories daily about Americans living with disabling conditions who need help from the system they contributed to during their working life. Their stories make us proud of the work we do.

Through our Faces and Facts of Disability website, we share the stories about what it means to receive disability benefits from Social Security. The site highlights some of the people who benefit from our programs. We believe that learning the facts and hearing peoples’ stories about disability allows for a better understanding of what’s perhaps the most misunderstood Social Security program.

The Social Security Act sets a very strict definition of disability. Social Security pays benefits to insured people who can’t work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. The impairment must be so severe that it renders the person unable to perform not only his or her previous work, but also any other substantial work.

Social Security doesn’t provide temporary or partial disability benefits. Because the eligibility requirements are so strict, our disability beneficiaries are among the most severely impaired people in the country. Our new online resources, the state disability fact sheets and our national disability issue paper, provide specific information about our recipients’ demographics by state and congressional district. These resources are proof of Social Security’s economic impact and benefit to our most vulnerable citizens.

Disability is something we don’t like to think about, or we may think it can’t happen to us. But the odds of becoming disabled are greater than we realize. The Social Security disability program excels in providing services to people when they need it the most.

For us, disability has faces and names — among them Larry, Kiera, Ebbie, Charlotte, Jamie, and Christine. We want to invite you to come see their faces, and learn the facts. They are truly at the heart of what we do.

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About the Author

Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications


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  1. Luciano

    A person must have previously worked and contributed in order to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? Thanks in advance.

    • Vonda

      Hi Luciano, thanks for using our blog. We pay disability benefits through two programs: the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. SSI is a needs-based program that provides cash assistance to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. Also, SSI benefits are payable to people 65 and older without disabilities, who meet the financial limits.

      When it comes to qualifying for disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Income, or SSDI program, individuals must have worked long enough–and recently enough–under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which you have to earn within the last 10 years before you become disabled. Check out our Disability web page for more details. We hope this is helpful.


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