Disability, Online Services

Understanding Social Security Disability Benefits

August 12, 2021 • By

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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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About the Author

Dawn Bystry, Associate Commissioner, Office of Strategic and Digital Communications

Deputy Associate Commissioner, Office of Strategic and Digital Communications


  1. Daniel

    Recommend to try http://essaypapers.reviews/

  2. Marquita.G

    I was just wondering what makes you permanently disabled? I’ve had two strokes lupus ovarian cancer major depression two back surgeries migraines seizures and need knee surgery and anxiety. And still on review every two years. Oh and PTSD

    • Michelle B.

      It is probably poor representation due to human experiments. just guessing. Sorry for your plight .

  3. koichi.igarashi

    Please continue to give us your support.

  4. Shirley L.

    Malevolent alien impostors, intent on destruction, are being vacated from this agency by the new, improved administration. I am hopeful for progress. This being said, my psychiatrist is a Beneficent alien being, embodying human form, her mission on Earth to observe and help mankind.

  5. Shirley L.

    I, too am on SSDI, and wonder what will happen when i reach retirement age. If i live that long, anyways. i am on permanent disibility for bipolar and can’t work as a welder anymore because of nerve damage and other injuries. Ive been on SSDI since 2014, after abandoning my job due to undue stress and deplorable conditions. My boss was an obsessively self-absorbed, maniacal homunculus who made my life an absolute hell.

    • Faith S.

      Nothing will happen to your payment. You will continue to receive the same amount. The only thing that changes is in the background. Instead of being paid from the disability trust fund, you will be paid under up the retirement trust fund.

    • Sharon p.

      I have been on SSI since 1986. When I hit retirement age they just change the name to retirement. No extra money though

  6. Katherine S.

    I’m on SSDI and am wondering what happens when I reach 65. Does it switch to regular Social Security or stay as SSDI? I’ve tried to find the answer online, but to no avail. Does anybody know?

    • Garey

      I am no expert ! But you will switch at 66 and so many months. Depending on when you were born.

    • Betty g.

      Yes, you will get the same amount of money as you were getting right now when you change from SSDI to retirement benefits.

    • Patty

      Hi Katherine, thanks for using our blog. Social Security disability benefits automatically change to retirement benefits when disability beneficiaries become full retirement age, but the benefit amount will remain the same. The law does not allow a person to receive both retirement and disability benefits on one earnings record at the same time. We hope this information is helpful.

      • Robert C.

        I have received SSDI since age 63, and am receiving my FRA amount. I am now 65. I will be at FRA at 66, 4 months. But I have been advised and assured by Jim Blair at Premier Social Security Solutions and other expert consultants at https://socialsecuritysolutions.com, that I could actually turn down getting the standard FRA benefit at 66, 4 months, and delay getting benefits until age 70. My local Chambersburg office seems to think I can’t do this.

  7. Becky

    Been on ssi for a long time, now since I had back surgery it’s sometimes hard to do daily cleaning, my back starts hurting I get sick to my tummy I have to sit down, I need my money it helps with rent and stuff. But with what I get it’s hard to get personal and cleaning stuff and food.

    • Shirley L.

      What money we get barely pays for rent. Some people think that we just don’t desire to work. So untrue. It’s really hard budgeting expenses every month and being able to pay rent and food, and forget any luxuries. Im grateful i am able to get the assistance, but it’s not the most desirable situation to be in.

    • Patty

      Hi Becky, we are sorry to hear about your medical condition. 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 (HHS) web page for more information. We hope this information helps.

  8. Hospitals &.

    No wonder the annual reports are so late. Although unemployment compensation (UC) is subjected to the individual income tax, UC does not pay the FICA tax. Nonetheless, the 2020 Combined Statement inexplicably reports:

    Individual Income Taxes were $1,608.7 billion in fiscal 2020, a decrease of 6.4 percent or $109.2 billion below the prior fiscal year. Social Insurance and Retirement Receipts were $1,310.0 billion in fiscal year 2020, an increase of 5.4 percent or $66.8 billion above the prior fiscal year.

    Transfers from the General Fund do no satisfy the expected shortfall in FICA tax revenues to generate positive growth at all. The civilian labor force has declined from 163 million in July 2019 to 161 million in July 2021. Employment has declined from 157 million in July 2019 to 153 million in July 2021.

    The gold standard for coronavirus treatment is hydrocortisone, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint or salt helps water cure coronavirus. Mentholyptus cough drops or Echinacea pills cure severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

    UN-diagnosed and treated coronavirus allergic rhinitis is where Congress gets the Federal Reserve counterfeited “gold” to pay deficits in excess in 3% of GDP pursuant to maybe cheating Marshal Lerner Condition devaluation. However, Congress is not known to have legislated any special laws supporting the social security trust funds, to explain how the anticipated -10% decline in social security revenues turned into 5.4% growth.

    The truth might force SSA disability borrowers to finally beg to close the tax loophole for the rich and state employees to end child poverty by 2024 and all poverty by 2030 by repealing Sec. 230 of the Social Security Act under 42USC430.

    If the Actuary needs help with the annual reports, they can email me information, via an SSA intermediary due to prior retaliation, in furtherance of my bid to be a non-partisan Trustee, for $2,000 mo. tax free disability.

    • Denise M.

      That ditr epilf nr nice but I doubt it! They could give a shit less! Thats why there is such a homeless problem! Who can pay rent utilities, car ins , registration and groceries on &1000.00 a month? Even less than I get!! I am in deep ass trouble here soon when my friend sells his house! He has helped me so much by working with me on rent! I owe him so much that I could never repay him!! My Mom used to say, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer!” lol! Hey, I didnt ask to get hurt at work and be disabled for the rest of my damn life its horrible!! Maybe they might look at the people instead of acting like a bunch of bitches fighting each other! Like them racing to the podium? What the Hell really?? Grow up and pull your heads out!

    • Jacqueline D.

      Thank you so very much for that important information I know exactly what you’re talking about when we talk about retaliation you can’t be smarter then the state or federal employees because they don’t like it and when you question federal laws to the state employees they love to just hang up on you and for 13 years my son and I organized assistance and any programs that were out there that we were eligible for and I’m on SSDI and I worked 45 years plus pain in my FICA tax and can you believe it but all these years that I worked my tail off and I can’t even get a handicap accessible van used for my son who was born with a neuromuscular disease and he looks paralyzed and he lost quality of life he couldn’t do anything he graduated from high school this year when the doctors all told me that he wasn’t going to make it to Sea high school but his mother kept him alive and the state is trying to kill him because of what they have done and how they lied and they they took his social security check I didn’t know where it was going then they took his child support check and he lost his health insurance because the state ask him if he would consider surrendering his parental rights I’m telling you our departments in Tennessee does not know what the hell they’re doing they don’t know how to manage they don’t know the federal laws they are worried about parents neglecting and abusing children what about the state how many times have they neglected abused harassed mentally tormented these children when they illegally steal them from their home you only place that they know where it was safe for them because being disabled and can’t be able to walk they have to have a parent that they can lean on for a safe haven to protect them from this ungodly world and my worst fears came into place they did not in 13 years and then when I question it would have they do they go after and innocent child and then take away his social security money in his support check and he loses his health insurance with this father’s work I mean this ain’t neglect this a inhumane this scene abuse and they have the audacity to come after a mother that works her whole life for her family and bought my own home, I did it on my own and because of these Democrats always with sticky hands had to ruin Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and trying to get Appraiser to increase the values of people home’s when they weren’t worth it. And putting the American p and a financial hole and then they end up losing their home and that’s where all the bankruptcies came into place in the appraisers like myself we were in play the game and for that reason they don’t send your work so you make no money this is what these politicians do to destroy the average worker and then they don’t want to help. And then when you’re about to go in and lose your home because you have no money coming in you try to go for help they got big advertisements from the state of Tennessee Tennessee save my home from foreclosure now we got two different to disabled people me and my son I have a son that’s over in Baghdad with the suicide bombers, all for the Obama Administration and then the Obama Administration telling you to get the modification for your mortgages because the housing market went in the toilet and of course you couldn’t get help my mortgage company wouldn’t help me and then I call Tennessee save my home they don’t want to know nothing so apparently they stole the state money so it will happen I end up losing my home did I worked hard for and you get nothing in return. Did we cause the market to crash no did we cause the pandemic no did we suffer through all this yes we did did we get anything because we’re taxpayers did we get assistance and help being quarantined no we did not do you think someone in the government or the state would help us get what we need of course not did they get to sit their asses home and collect a paycheck from our tax dollars yes they did and they still get the big benefits and we get nothing instead we are getting evicted people are living in Walmart parking lot in their cars, and this is America the land of opportunity and prosperity instead for the the land of poverty the American dream went right down the toilet and our poor kids they have to go through this and have not a clue because the school system sucks and these kids no nothing about life they don’t know their history they have no idea about the Constitution they can’t even write their name they have to print because they weren’t talked to write this is how lazy the school system has become and then they blame the parents were the ones that are mentally ill and we’re the ones that are neglecting our children because you got the teachers playing please Patrol instead of doing their job and this is what we’re paying with our tax dollars a bunch of idiots that no nothing anymore and said the ruining our children and then telling them things that any even true and then you got the minorities which is bull you know I look at it a minority is a child that is born with a disease without a limb death or dumb like my son muscular dystrophy cerebral palsy these kids can’t help it the way they were born they’re the ones that are the minorities I’m tired of hearing about the Latinos and the African American and Asian, we all come from one blood I can give blood to Spanish to the blacks to the Asians but can anybody cheer my son with a neuromuscular disease that puts him in a wheelchair and he can’t walk and would sad about it and all he asked for was to be equal with his friends and you do things and be a part of the community and because of what they have done he couldn’t do nothing he was like a prisoner in his own home and they don’t think about emergencies they don’t think about if they’re sick at school how is apparent going to go and get them now instead their stereotyping and discriminating against the mother because she doesn’t have transportation cuz it’s so expensive and he supposed to get the help from vocational rehabilitation services over how they forget how they left him out transition he got nothing again where did all the money go to 14 years my son attended School and all he got in the fourteen years was two desks to fit his wheelchair and a Chromebook now you got to remember they get money every school year these kids they have a dollar amount like it by homeschooled him I would have gotten like $6,800 at school year to buy his books transportation whatever that had to do with school so if I would have gotten that homeschool in him what did the state get and where is the money again back at where’s the money and then they don’t want to help with a handicap accessible van that’s like worth $14,000 you take 14 years times if I say six $6,000 or $5,000 what does that come out to. And what kills me Social Security Administration just is quiet they don’t want to say a word they don’t want to help they don’t want to advocate they’re not watching they don’t care they sit back and allow this to go on. These are innocent kids that is just looking for acceptance it’s a sad situation. Now if I’m wrong then you tell me I’m wrong but I’ve been through it I’ve been to every IEP meeting I know exactly what they have done, I’ve been fighting this for years. Karma is a b**** they don’t get away with it they can cover it up as long as they can but it always comes out you can’t lie because you get caught.

      • Michelle B.

        Agreed. When my successful abled friends talk to me , I can tell there’s a difference. We are profiled and judged by everyone. Theres an agenda for sure

  9. Scott A.

    I’ve been VA 100% P&T+SMC-S as well as SSA Disabled since 58 and Medicare since 60. There seems to be a lot of confusion because I am now reaching my 65th Birthday, yet as I understand it there is nothing changing as I will never get better and take 26 medications, Injections, Inhalations and sleep on a by-Papp. I have 4 terminally ending diseases from 100% Permanent and Total for my heart alone + SMC-S for greater than 60% more.

    • Faith S.

      Nothing will happen to your payment once you are at full retirement age. You will continue to receive the same amount. The only thing that changes is in the background. Instead of being paid from the disability trust fund, you will be paid under up the retirement trust fund.

  10. Sandra S.

    Yes i did enten fifth five bank like loan personal loke used for cars self because my kids wont help.me ride too far away that why i need it for me too much bad pain the my knee and my back spine very seriously once i need it need cars now

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