Disability, SSI

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

January 19, 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, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications


  1. Thomas W.

    It makes sense that disability benefits are given to those who can’t do things like profitable work. Having some kind of a social security disability lawyer would be really important in ensuring that you get the benefits you need. Having someone who can argue on your behalf, well, would be really great.

  2. Pamela F.

    How much can you make working and the government still pay for your Medicare insurance?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Pamela. Thanks for your questions. If you are receiving retirement benefits, check out how work affects Social Security payments here.
      If you are referring to Social Security disability benefits, special rules allow you to work temporarily without losing your monthly Social Security disability benefits. After your nine-month trial work period, we still provide a safety net that allows you to work another three years risk free. During those three years, you can work and still receive benefits for any month in which your earnings do not exceed a certain limit. For 2019, those limits are: $2,040 for blind individuals; or $1,220 a month if you are not blind. For more information on working while receiving Social Security disability benefits, visit our Frequently Asked Questions. If you qualify for the State to pay your Medicare premium, you will need to call your state medical assistance 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). Thanks!

  3. Gregory A.

    I have been turned down by BC/BS for supplemental Plan F, High Deductible coverage…. is there another supplemental plan that will cover my insurance… something called “Special Needs”??
    Gregory A. Chance

  4. Cheryl M.

    If I have been on disability since 2008, now I am turning 65 in 2019 do I have to apply for retirement?

  5. Tuyen h.

    Still can not understand what your mean .please let talk me know what did i do some wrong before ..and please try keepping help to me ,let show the best way for how can I have to do ? Thanks

  6. alton m.

    i’m still waiting for my award letter

  7. Padraig k.

    On disibility now for 11 years with a heart condition
    Tryed to get the disibility parking to make my life somewhat more comfortable and still have not got it
    This is adding more stress to my life and can’t under stand it I will try to apply for it again here is hoping

  8. Marcia K.

    My husband has been on Social Security Disability for over 15 years. He turns 65 this year, does his need to notify Social Security. Will loosing his long term disability insurance change the amount he receives?

    • Vonda V.

      Marcia, thank you for your question. When someone is receiving disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, we automatically convert their disability benefits to retirement benefits, when they attain their Full Retirement Age. The benefit amount will generally remain the same.

  9. Lisa D.

    I have been applied a several times and hav been denied, in the process of waiting have become homeless .i have also often a attorney and still have to wait .

    • Ray F.

      Hello Lisa. The length of time it takes to process a claim or to get a hearing can vary from state to state. We attempt to resolve all claims promptly, but there may be delays due to the volume of cases in your area. Some individuals may be eligible to receive additional assistance from the state where they live; while they wait for a final determination on their disability claim. 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 web page for more information. Thanks.

  10. Nadine P.

    Its been a month since my hearing
    For SSD my case was excepted. My lawyer said i would receive a letter in the mail. How long should i wait before getting in touch with SS office, if i dont receive a letter.

    • Vonda V.

      Thank you for contacting us, Nadine. You can check the application status in your my Social Security account which will show if a decision has been made on your appeal. If you do not already have an account, you can create one. Go to Sign In or Create an Account. If you’re unable to check the status of your appeal online, you may call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or you can contact your local Social Security office.

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