Things to Think About Before Applying for Disability Benefits
Last Updated: July 21, 2021
Social Security is with you throughout life’s journey. We provide vital financial support to tens of millions of American workers, primarily through retirement benefits. But we’re also there for you if the unexpected happens and a serious medical condition stops you from working to support yourself and your family.
Disability benefits replace a portion of your income
If you become seriously disabled, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits that replace a portion of your lost income. Here are the three key factors we use to determine if you may qualify for disability benefits:
- You must have a lasting medical condition so severe that it prevents you from doing the work that you did in the past or adjusting to other types of work.
- Your physical or mental impairment(s) must have lasted or be expected to last at least a year or result in death.
- You must have worked long enough — and recently enough — in jobs covered by Social Security.
What you should know about earning credits
You become eligible for Social Security benefits by working and paying Federal Insurance Contribution Act taxes, which translate into Social Security “credits.” A person can earn up to four credits a year. How old you are when you become disabled determines the number of credits you need to receive disability benefits.
For example, if you become disabled at age 31 or older, you generally must have earned at least 20 credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled. Twenty credits are equal to five years of substantial earnings. Younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.
Please log in to or create your personal my Social Security account to see how many credits you have earned and to estimate future benefits. Visit our Social Security Credits webpage to learn more about credits.
What if I don’t have enough credits
Those who have not worked enough to qualify for Social Security benefits may be eligible for help through our Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. SSI provides monthly payments to adults and children with a disability or blindness, as well as older people, who have little or no income or resources. Unlike Social Security disability benefits, SSI is funded with general tax revenue, not through Social Security taxes. Learn more on our SSI webpage.
Social Security helps you and millions of other Americans secure today and tomorrow by providing important financial benefits, information, and planning tools. Learn more by visiting our website. Please share this information with your family and friends – and post it on social media.