Disability, SSI

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

March 30, 2017 • By

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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. Dawn R.

    Is there a way to get your drivers license back even though I cannot work and still have medical issues

  2. Susan B.

    What effect could an inheritance have on a person’s disability benefits? The person is permanently disabled and receives part of the monthly payment from long term disability insurance from a former employer, and part from Social Security. Is there any sort of means test? NOTE that SSI is NOT a factor. Thank you.

  3. Dana B.

    I am 67 & currently drawing Social Security & Medicare. I am still working because I cannot live on Social Security alone. I just recently got diagnosed with severe COPD & will be unable to work. Is there any other kind of financial help I can receive?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Dana. We are sorry to hear about your condition and situation. You may qualify for the State to pay your Medicare premium. You will need to call your state medical office for assistance. To get the local phone number, call the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at 1-800-633-4227 (TTY, 1-877-486-2048). We hope this helps.

  4. Shari G.

    It took three tries and 25 years to finally be approved for SSDI. Because-it isn’t enough to make ends meet, but am afraid that if I work I will lose the only money that barely keeps a roof over my head. My check is 20$ shy of rent. On SHRA list nine years still waiting . Have requested a wipe call twice now. No word . The most recent two years with Madison Avenue DOR did nothing to help with job goals except some cloths however they paid 6k to an agency that did nothing to help me achieve work! I pulled my ticket & found temporary work but really need a call from An EN staff to help me know the rules better. Please help Sacramento, CA

  5. Kim T.

    SSI ,my wife signed our children up to our bank. Now their income is mine, SSA went back 2 years using our son’s bank accounts my resources went over 3k every month, now i owe SSA 7,000.00. I see I can rebut the issue, however there is no form, the SSA CR did not allow the rebut. I see no way to issue a rebuttal.

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Kim. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. You can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. Generally, you will have a shorter wait if you call later in the day. You can also contact your local Social Security office. You can ask to speak to a supervisor on your next visit or call. We hope this helps.

  6. Kelly L.

    If you receive disability payments, do you swap over to Social Security retirement at 62 years of age?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Kelly. Thanks for your question. When you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the benefit amount remains the same. Hope this helps.

  7. Ellie D.

    I was not aware that social security has a strict definition of disability based on your inability to work and provide for your family. My mother’s neighbor got injured at work, and we are looking for advice about disability benefits. I will let him read your article to help him understand the process to get a social security disability. https://www.rg3law.com/practice-areas/social-security

  8. Richard

    When a person on disability receives an inheritance, do they have to pay back monies to S.S.?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Richard. Thanks for your question. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are based on earnings and are not subject to income and resource limits. An inheritance will not affect your SSDI benefit but would affect a person’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit. For more information, visit here. We hope this helps.

  9. Zella D.

  10. Ivy

    Question I can not find answers for in regards to assets I can have for example can I own my own home someday? Can you tell me where to find that information?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Ivy. Thanks for your question. It sounds like you are referring to resources. If you are referring to resources, 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 the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) resource limit. For more information on SSI resources, visit here. We hope this helps!

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