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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  3. Sylvia

    I have been on disability since 2016, I have recently turned 65, does this mean my disability has rolled over to retirement? If so, if I continue to work 2 days a week do I have to continue to bring or send pay stubd to social security? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Sylvia, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. 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. We hope this helps!

      Reply
    • Mustafa

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  4. Eric s.

    Good day,I been receiving SSD since 2016,my question is since my attorney stated to ss that he will not take a fee because he got paid by ss .why I have to wait 4 years to receive my ssd backpay from my case.

    Reply
  5. Kay

    If someone is already on Social Security, can they also receive SSI or SSDI?

    Reply
    • Patty

      Hi Kay. thanks for using our blog to ask your question. If you are referring to someone receiving retirement benefits, 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. We hope this helps!

      Reply
    • Mustafa

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  6. Tricia B.

    When applying for SSI..is one of the requirements asking about do you own your home and how much money is in your account because one of the representative asked my sister because she applied for SSI?

    Reply
    • Patty

      Hi Tricia, 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. The resource limit for SSI is $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple. For more information visit our SSI Resources web page. We hope this helps.

      Reply
      • Mustafa

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  7. Lillian M.

    My son is 23 years old, diagnosed with Downs syndrome and autism. He receives under $700.00 monthly, I have read, the amount is close to $1000.00, I don’t understand the calculation.

    Reply
    • Patty

      Hi Lillian. Thank you for the question. It depends on the type of benefit your son is receiving. If he’s receiving a Social Security benefit, that amount is based on the worker’s average lifetime earnings. If he’s receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), that monthly benefit amount is based on factors such as the federal benefit rate, income and resources. We hope this helps.

      Reply
    • Tim

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  8. C

    I’ve applied for disability since 2016 since finding out I have epilepsy and sleep Apnea since 2013 and was denied until they wanted to go to civil court. Yes I use to think by me being the age I was I’m not disabled but over time now it’s gotten worse now I have myocardial ischemia and have always had high blood pressure,pcos and been anemic.I’ve applied again and wonder if I have to basically be in hospice to be approved

    Reply
    • Messenger

      Get an attorney. They WILL approve you. He’ll take his retainer fee out of the back payment they will owe you from 2016 to present. Get one. Be patient. It will happen.

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  9. PATRICIA H.

    Why do a person that want to do better and on SSI they take.

    Reply
    • Tonitha W.

      i wonder whos collecting my money.

      Reply
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