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. Catherine

    My spouse receives Social Security benefits through a disability condition. He is currently 63 years old. I am 64 years old. Are there spousal benefits that I am eligible for now (based on his disability status with SS)?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Catherine. Thanks for using our blog. We will always pay your own retirement benefit first. If your benefits as a spouse are higher than your own retirement benefits, you will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit. However, the spouse’s benefit cannot exceed one-half of your husband’s disability amount. So, you can only receive additional spouse’s benefits if your own full retirement benefit (not your reduced benefit) is less than half of his disability benefit.

      Generally, during the initial interview when applying for Social Security benefits, we typically explore all other benefits that could yield you a higher benefit amount. To find out if you are eligible for a higher benefit amount, 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. We hope this information helps.

      Reply
  2. Ellie

    I took a small p-t job in n myarch 2020 making apx $300/mo. My husbands disability payments were stopped abruptly with no notice last monthOct 2021. Is it because I am making my own money for personal use? How can SSDI cut a person off with no notice? They say they mailed a letter in April 2020. We never received a letter. How can they be so careless to mail such an important letter and not make sure we received it? Now Medicare is telling us we owe them 594 for Part B. And SS says we owe them 28000. He has incurable cancer & another chronic issue. If they SS need proof they didn’t even give us enough time to prove our status before having to pay Medicare! How is this possible? He works under the approved amount per month . Our assets haven’t changed, nothings changed. We are both stressed out about this.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Ellie, thanks for reaching out. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. Please contact your local Social Security office. Look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. We hope this helps.

      Reply
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    Reply
  4. patty

    my daughter has been receiving SSDI and Medicare benefits. she has talked about possibly getting married. my question is if she did get married would either or both of her benefits be affected? Also if the person she would possibly marry has health insurance through their job would that affect any of her benefits?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Patty, thanks for using our blog. If your daughter is receiving Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits and she marries, her SSDI benefit and her Medicare will remain the same. If your daughter receives health insurance coverage through her spouse’s active employment, she should always check with her spouse’s health benefits advisor, or health plan representative to see what’s best for her. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions web page for more details on how marriage may affect benefits. We hope this information is helpful.

      Reply
  5. Dee G.

    I have been disabled since August 2020, I applied for social security disability benefits in May and was approved; however payments will not begin until December. Why am I not receiving my benefits retroactive to the date of application?

    Reply
    • Ann C.

      Hi, Dee. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. You can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. Generally, you will have a shorter wait if you call later in the day. You can also contact your local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

      Reply
  6. Ed S.

    I have received ssdi since 2004 am 61.5 years old I now live in California. Do to the high cost of living in California I am thinking of moving to New Mexico
    Does my benefits amount get recalculate being New Mexico cost of living is lower?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Ed, thanks for using our blog. If you’re receiving Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits, the amount is based on your average lifetime earnings, and has nothing to do with where you live. If you’re receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, a change in your living arrangement can affect your benefits and it must be reported. You can call your local Social Security office. Look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. We hope this information helps.

      Reply
  7. Theresa W.

    I’ve been receiving SSDI since 2004 and turned 64 this year. I am living alone and due to the cost of living, my shelter costs are 75% of my benefits. HUD recommends a person’s shelter costs to be around 30% of their income.
    Is there any way that, due to the below poverty level that I’ve been living in, I could qualify for both SSDI & SSI?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Theresa, thanks for using our blog. If you have low income and limited resources, you may be able to receive SSI in addition to monthly Social Security benefits. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is a needs-based program that pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. SSI benefits also are payable to people 65 and older without disabilities, who meet the financial limits. 

      To inquire about potential benefits, you can call 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.

      Reply
  8. Joe T.

    My son receives either SSI or SSID, but he doesn’t know which. How can he find out?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Joe, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. The Social Security disability (SSDI) program pays benefits to individuals that are “insured.” This means they worked long enough – and recently enough – and paid Social Security taxes on their earnings. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to adults and children with disabilities who have limited income and resources.

      While these two programs are different, the medical requirements are the same. If someone meets the non-medical requirements, monthly benefits are paid if they have a medical condition expected to last at least one year or result in death.

      Your son’s payment schedule is a good indication of which type of benefit he is receiving. If your son receives both SSDI and SSI, he will receive his benefit on the third of the month. If your son only receives SSI, he will receive his benefit on the first of the first of the month. If your son only receives Social Security, he will receive his benefit based on the birthday of the person whose record he receives benefits. 

      Check out the Schedule of Social Security Payments for the current payment dates. We hope this information is helpful.

      Reply
  9. Ana P.

    I am disabled due to kidney failure. I am receiving my social security retirement. What happens after receiving a kidney transplant? Do i continue receiving my retirement or are there rules for that?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Ana, thanks for using our blog. Social Security disability benefits automatically change to retirement benefits when disability beneficiaries become full retirement age. If you’re under your full retirement age, you may want to consider applying for Social Security disability benefits.

      If you have any questions or want to apply, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 or 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.

      Reply
  10. Carolyn

    I’ve had SSID for over 10 years, I’m now 62 years old.
    When does my SS benefits change and will it also change how much I receive??
    I’m confused 😐

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Carolyn, 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
      • Sandi

        I’m on disability Social Security now and will soon turn 65. My full retirement age is 66 4 mo. I understand that my disability SS changes to a regular retirement payment 66 4 mo. My question is will my Social Security stay the same or will it change? If it changes, how do I find out what my benefit will be? Thanks for your assistance to help me make sense of this.

        Reply
        • Vonda

          Hi Sandi, 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. Your monthly dollar amount remains the same. We hope this helps!

          Reply

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