Disability, SSI

There’s Plenty You Should Know About Social Security Disability Benefits!

March 30, 2017 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: March 17, 2021

woman in wheelchair in library Life is unpredictable. When something interrupts your plans, it’s good to know there’s a way to supplement your income, in case of an unexpected life event.

Social Security has a strict definition of disability based on your inability to work and provide for yourself and your family. Disability benefits are available only to people with impairments so severe that they prevent any kind of significant, profitable work. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability.

We pay disability via two programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance program, for people who have worked and paid Social Security taxes long enough to be eligible, and the Supplemental Security Income program, which pays benefits based on financial need.

When you apply for either program, we will collect medical and other information from you. Our disability examiners will make a decision about whether or not you can do work that you did before, adjust to other work because of your medical condition, and if your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or is likely to result in death.

Certain factors may speed or delay the decision in your case, like the nature of your disability and how quickly we can get your medical records. We may also need to send you for an additional medical examination at no cost to you.

If you would like to apply for disability benefits, you can use our online application. It has several advantages, including immediately starting the process, no waiting to get an appointment, and no trip to a Social Security Office. It’s easy, convenient, and secure.

You can find out everything there is to know about disability benefits online.

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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. Michael D.

    I have been working for decades while on ssd. What is the maximum amount I am allowed to earn per month while on disiability?

  2. Margaret L.

    I started collecting my deceased ex-spouse’s benefits when I was 62. I am now 68, and unable to work, although I have been tryng. Can I file for disability under the benefits account that I have through my deceased ex-husband’s account?
    Thank you
    Margaret Lee

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Margaret, thanks for using our blog. When a person has reached their full retirement age (Currently 66), they are no longer eligible for disability benefits. However, if you have never filed for your own retirement benefits, you can switch over to that benefit if advantageous to do so.

      To inquire on potential higher retirement benefits, call us at 1-800-772-1213 or contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  3. Jak

    How do you file for SSI , if you believe you will not be eligible for disability? What are all the rules and regulations for SSI ?
    Thank you .

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Jak. We pay disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have worked long enough and recently enough in jobs covered by Social Security (usually within the last 10 years). The (SSI) program is a needs based program that gives cash assistance to disabled individuals with limited income and resources. We pay disability benefits to people who are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last one year or more or to end in death. If you think you may be eligible to receive disability benefits and would like to apply, you can use our online application.

      If you are unable to file online, please call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) for assistance or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  4. Timothy C.

    I am currently collecting disability and also I am working part time and can make up to $1.260 per month with out getting penalized. I lost my job due to covid 19, am I able to file for unemployment insurance at this time. Thanks

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Timothy, thank you for your question. Unemployment benefits do not affect or reduce Social Security retirement and disability benefits. State unemployment compensation payments are not wages because they are paid due to unemployment rather than employment. However, income from Social Security may reduce your unemployment compensation. Contact your state unemployment office for information on how your state applies the reduction. We hope this helps.

  5. Susan F.

    Thank you. This might be useful for me people. Good article. Interesting

  6. Cynthia H.

    If someone is receiving disability benefits and was in a car accident which they received a settlement, does that affect the disability benefits? Is the settlement reportable? Thank you.

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Cynthia. Thanks for your question. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are based on earnings and are not subject to income and resource limits. Resources can affect a person’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit. Resources are the things you own such as cash, real estate, personal belongings, bank accounts, stocks and bonds that you can use for your support. However, not all of your resources count toward SSI resource limit. For more information on SSI resources, visit here. We hope this helps!

  7. AFTAB M.

    Thank you. This might be useful for me people.Interesting

  8. J O.

    My daughter is 51. She has had Rheumatoid Arthritis since she was 14. She was working and when her Doctors told she could not work, she applied for SS Disability and began taking her disability from her job insurance. Shortly after she was sentenced to two years in a Federal Prison for tax evasion. Her disability through govt was denied. When she got out she started the process again. After jumping through all the hoops. getting letters from many Doctors inclluding Mayo Clinic specialists she was again denied for the reason that she had not been to see Doctors often enough in the past year. The reason they were refusing to see her because she owed them money. Then she was told and I am not sure of the right words but basically she had aged out because she hadn’t worked in the last years. This woman is in constant pain following many surgeries I just can’t understand how she could be refused and yet others are getting it. I really would like some help in understanding this.

  9. Cynthia P.

    In Texas when applying for disability a person who is applying is told that they can work, but only up to a certain amount. The disability examiner told me that if I needed to work then work. The income from any work needed to stay below $1080 ( my amounts are probably off a little it has been 2 years since I applied). It is pointed out though that if working and making an income within the limits, your case will most likely be denied.
    I was denied 3 times by myself. I submitted medical records showing that I have had multiple sclerosis for over 35 years. I did everything that was asked of me. I had been working full time since getting out of college. However my diagnosis changed to relapsing and remitting to secondary progressive ms. It was affecting me cognitively, slowing down processing time. I lost 2 jobs because of that. The couple of times that I did not work at a job paying into social security was stopping the clock for all the years I had already paid my 4 quarters. School districts in Texas are not required to pay into social security. If someone from social security had told me this, I would not have worked in a school. In Texas the last 10 years you worked, at least 5 of the years had to be with jobs paying into social security. The first I knew about it was when I was denied.
    The examiners in Texas seem to have a negative attitude towards people who apply. I say that because they don’t provide very much, if any positive attitude. I know the handle a lot of cases. When I worked as a causality examiner in Insurance, I was overwhelmed with cases. However it is a job that provides a service to our customers, we couldn’t be negative to our policyholders.
    The government does not give a whole lot of positive news to us, so I would suppose government employees are not given much positive influence or even a reason to be positive. I know that is not the only problem. I know there are many on disability that should not be, but there are even more people with disabling conditions that have not been able to get social security, so they live severely under the poverty level and the proper medical care is out of their limits.
    I am now on disability since March of 2019. I finally hired an attorney just file paperwork which I had already obtained for them.
    Now that I am on disability I was given a “ticket to work”. You are encouraged to use the providers to help you get back into work either with training for new vocations or jobs, or finding employers that will work with your disabilities.
    The system seems kind of backwards. Why couldn’t the social security system work with disabled individuals to see what kind of work the individual could done. Then pay the individual the difference of money that was made before the disability, not exceed a decided maximum.

    When this system was originally set up, it wasn’t supposed to be so difficult. However our world today has a lot more people and business commerce is very different now.

  10. Roxanne F.

    I have diabetes is this considered a medical disability.

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