Disability, SSI

Things to Think About Before Applying for Disability Benefits  

June 11, 2020 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: November 2, 2023

Contemplating man with artificial limb using laptop while sitting on bench in citySocial 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Your physical or mental impairment(s) must have lasted or be expected to last at least a year or result in death.
  3. 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.

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About the Author

Darlynda Bogle, Assistant Deputy Commissioner

Darlynda Bogle, Assistant Deputy Commissioner


  1. Cesar A.

    I haved lost my hearing totally causing. Me all. kinds of inconviniesess for work my condition is from severe to profound making me depress not able to function normally. Plus also my ciatic bones giving problems too as recommended by the Dr that saw not to do hard work due to pain at the lower back and numbness and burning sensations on my left leg

  2. Andrés C.

    What kind of incomes (wages, salaries, others…) are subject to SS tax witheld and payments, etc.

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Andres, thank you for your question. It sounds like you’re referring to federal taxes that some have to pay on their Social Security benefits. The taxation limits are based on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. Taxation inquiries should be addressed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at http://www.irs.gov or by calling their toll-free number at 1-800-829-1040.

      Social Security has earnings limits for retirement (or survivor) beneficiaries receiving benefits prior to their full retirement age. Once you turn full retirement age, your earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn.

  3. etimoloji s.

  4. Doreen E.

    I have a question I will be 66 in 3yrs and that would be my retirement age right now Iam on disability when I turn 66 will my disability automatically convert to regular social security and will it be the same amount as I recieve now

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Doreen, thanks for using our blog. Social Security disability benefits automatically change to retirement benefits when disability beneficiaries become full retirement age. The law does not allow a person to receive both retirement and disability benefits on one earnings record at the same time. You don’t have to do a thing and your benefit amount will remain the same. Thanks!

  5. Aniket P.

    Hi, Thanks for sharing such amazing post. It was very useful and informative as well!
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  6. Stephen A.

    I am a senior Citizen of United states 67yrs old and now living in Nigeria since 10yrs,and l am not working depending on people for assistance.How can l get my social security Benefits

    • Vonda V.

      Stephen, thank you for using our blog to ask your question. Since you are living outside of the U.S. you can contact your local Federal Benefits Unit for any assistance related to Social Security benefits. Also, our Office of International Operations home page provides more information to assist our customers living abroad. We hope this helps.

  7. Lori S.

    Can someone please tell me when the SSA in Billings will be opening to see clients I have a hole stack of medical records that I need to be submitted, I have called several times just to be told that they have NOT been given a date when they are going to see clients

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Lori, our offices remain closed to the public for face-to-face service. We are still able to provide critical services via phone, fax and online. For more information and to subscribe for updates, visit here. Thanks!

  8. Wendy

    In some cases sis should be increased. I worried 25 years at one job paid taxes and after medicareis deducted I receive 400. A month I am doesn’t to eating 3 small meals a week. How does are govt expect one person not to be put in a home. My son and grand daurgter both have severe brain injuries and need the help that I am unable to give them . One from accident at birth another from a car accident. They will never be able to work. Extended family got tired of helping with food or money so they quit like my country has .

    • Elisabeth E.

      Is there a Center for Independent Living in the area where you live? If yes, this office may be able to guide your family through the beginning of the process. Also there are (in most States) lawyers who advocate for People with Disabilities. Good Luck!

  9. Patricia

    I became disabled about 5 years ago and only receive $931.00. I would like to know if once I reach 65 years old will my social security reflect a different amount and provide me with 100% of my social security?

    • griffith

      I was getting $687.00 a month. when I received my retirement I lost all of my disability because my retirement was $100 more than my disability,regardless of the fact I am still disabled. I hope you have better luck!

      • John

        How is that possible?

  10. tony

    The SSA is going to have a huge backlog of disability cases. It is only going to get worse because this recession has more unemployed people than 2008.

    People are going to come out of the woodwork claiming depression, anxiety, and back pain.

    People are going to dust of their old workers compensation and auto accident claims. You know those doctors who wrote up the injury report exaggerated their pain for the attorneys who paid them.

    My friend’s two kids are accident attorneys and they have their own doctors to take their clients to receive treatment.

    • darci a.

      I actually already HAVE depression, anxiety, and back pain. And a whole peaceful of other problems, and I haven’t gotten anything but denials since 2012. So dont u worry. The health problems others have, real or imagined or faked, will take a whole,lot more than that list to reach into “your wallet.” I hope you never get so hurt as to need Disability Payments. I actually know someone who died of BRAIN CANCER 2 weeks after he was DENIED …

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