Disability, Online Services

Understanding Social Security Disability Benefits

August 12, 2021 • By

Last Updated: August 12, 2021

woman in wheelchair holding a dog's pawsDisability is something most people don’t like to think about, but the chances that you’ll become disabled are greater than you realize. Studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a 1-in-4 chance of becoming disabled before reaching full retirement age.

Social Security pays disability benefits through two programs:


  1. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.
  2. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security pays benefits to people who can’t work because they have a medical condition that’s expected to last at least one year or result in death. Federal law requires this very strict definition of disability. In addition to meeting our definition of disability, individuals must have worked long enough — and recently enough — under Social Security to qualify for SSDI benefits. While some programs give money to people with partial disability or short-term disability, Social Security does not.

SSDI is funded through payroll taxes. Recipients have worked for years and have contributed to the Social Security trust fund in the form of Social Security taxes – received under either the Federal Insurance Contributions Act for employees or the Self-Employment Contributions Act for the self-employed. These taxes translate into Social Security “credits.” Qualified dependents of a disabled work may also receive benefits even though they may not have worked.

The amount needed for a work credit changes from year to year. In 2021, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,470 in wages or self-employment income. When you’ve earned $5,880, you’ve earned your four credits for the year.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI provides payments to people with disabilities who have low income and few resources. Although Social Security manages the program, the SSI program is funded by general tax revenues and is not paid for from Social Security taxes. Also, SSI benefits are not based on your work history.

How You Qualify

It’s important to know which benefits you may qualify to receive. Please read our publications, Disability Benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), for more information. You can also see if you meet the requirements for disability benefits on our How You Qualify page. When you apply for either program, we’ll collect medical and other information from you and make a decision about whether or not you qualify for benefits.

You can apply online for retirement, spouse’s, Medicare, or disability benefits.

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Deputy Associate Commissioner, Office of Strategic and Digital Communications


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  1. Joyce D.

    My husband had a massive stroke 20 years ago. Half of his body is paralyzed, and he’s using a wheelchair. I forced to retire early because of his condition. I have to be with him when he goes to the bathroom, drive him to the doctor, clean him up and preparing his food. I have to rely on Social Security as the source of income. I have a booth at the Flea Market, so I can be able to pick up some income, but because of COVID-19, now variant, people seem staying out from the crowd and prepare to stay home. Meanwhile, my husband condition is worsened. Is there any assistance as a caregive for my husband. Please help.

    • Dorothy M.

      I have studied NIH for 23 years about as a hobby: Pub Med NCBI. I really like to study the science of foods~amazing information. I know that some very sinister people are trying to start a worm pandemic too. Here is a recipe that should keep you worm for most types: in a gallon of water put a cinnamon bark crunched a little(2″-3″) & one 325 aspirin (Bayer) let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add sugar, then add ground coffee & let simmer another minute or two. Shut off the heat and in about 5 minutes add cream or milk to your liking. This combo of aspirin and cinnamon creates a “lethal oxidative” to anisakis and others and other germs, called the “furoxan molecule.” Always check with doctor first. Other options which can be added: burdock root, Astragulus, chicory, chocolate, a sprinkle of allspice, even banana peel cut into 1/2″ strips-6-10.

    • Patty

      Hi Joyce. Thanks for your question. We do not pay caregivers.  However, you may be eligible to receive social services from the state in which you live.  These services include 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. We hope this helps.

      • Jennifer

        I. Have. A. Disability. With. Seizures and medical issues bleed

        • Vonda

          Hi Jennifer, thanks for using our blog. 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 disability application.

          If you are unable or would rather not apply online, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 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.

  2. Lisa

    When a disabled adult child switches from SSI to SSDI under a parent’s work record, is a new medical evaluation and decision required? He just had a CDR three years ago.

    • Patty

      Hi Lisa.  Thank you for the question. A disabled child already receiving SSI benefits, may be eligible for benefits if a parent is deceased or starts receiving retirement or disability benefits. The disabled adult child must be unmarried, age 18 or older, and have a disability that started before age 22, and meet the definition of disability for adults. We will evaluate their disability the same way we would evaluate the disability for any adult. We send the application to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) in your state for a medical decision. For more information, check out our disability web page. We hope this helps.

  3. Elaina M.

    I applied for SSDI by by phone. She kept insisting I apply for SSI also. I told her many times during the call- “I do not want to apply for SSI just SSDI.” She insisted I needed to fill out both and “Just apply for SSDI” Put the other aside incase?! A week later she sent me something saying I was denied SSI- Reason, I don’t want it. Then, I got a letter that my SSDI was approved based on a incorrect earnings..I have been collecting state disability while waiting for SSDI. Amount $748. per month. Her # was 810. per month. They were withholding the back amount they owed to make sure I didn’t earn more?? Okay…Received another letter a few days later saying I was overpayed $1900! I haven’t got anything! This letter was concerning my SSI- yes, SSI that I didn’t want and was denied. Never got. I’m guessing now she has me down as collecting SSDI and SSI and CASDI(State) which she made up new incorrect amounts for. Said I collected $840. now state for each July and Aug. and expected 748. for Sept. I sent her proof, we talked on the phone- it is 748. per month every month is the same!!! It says my benefits are now zero and I owe for overpayment. I don’t know whether to call her with All my questions. 10 mo. into disability. Had open heart surgery and haven’t worked. I need my SSDI. I can’t afford the money or time to get an attorney. It should have been a straight forward case. I shouldn’t have to file a written appeal for her mistakes. Yes, I’m positive it was her mistake. And her insisting I needed to apply for both. Help!

    • Patty

      Hi Elaina.  We apologize for the difficult time you are experiencing working with Social Security. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue.  We encourage you to continue to work with your local office and ask to speak to a supervisor on your next call. 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 matter is resolved soon.

    • Loretta Z.

      Your best bet is to go into your local social security office armed with all appropriate documents relating to your disability. Most attorney’s do nothing. Mine said after the 3rd denial, “Well you don’t have cancer!”. I nearly died shortly before she said that to me and as soon as I was out of the hospital and 3 months of inpatient physical therapy, I went in person to plead my case. The next day i was approved, but they wouldn’t give me my back pay. I’d sure like that.

  4. Sanjay S.

    Amazing post about Social Security Disability

    also i have written new post about corn flour in hindi

  5. kyle.W

    I’ve had major issues with the SSI ADMINISTRATION now for almost 20 yes. And not the local office’s nor the main office will help me at all. They won’t make an appointment, I can’t have an online acct with them so I’m not getting all my benefits from the start, they don’t care or help in anyway. So do I have to get an attorney all over again?

    • Patty

      Hi Kyle. We apologize and we regret to hear you did not receive the level of customer service you expected. You can submit feedback by visiting our Contact Social Security page. Once there, select the “Email Us” link. This will take you to the “Email A Question to our Support Team” form, where you can complete and submit a compliment, complaint, or suggestion. We hope this helps.

  6. Topcrest

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  7. brianfirman

    thank you that is very good information, I am now starting to understand how important social security is because it has many benefitsVisit website : http://www.iquibicen.fcen.uba.ar


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