Social Security Disability Benefits





Social Security has two major types of disability benefits available to qualified individuals. They are:

    • Social Security Disability Insurance
    • Supplemental Security Income

These Federal programs provide assistance to people with disabilities. Both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration and only individuals who have a disability and meet pre-determined medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program.

When an application is made for either program, the Social Security Administration will collect medical and other information from you and make a decision about whether or not you meet their definition of disability.

By law, Social Security has a very strict definition of disability. To be found disabled:

  • You must be unable to do any substantial work because of your medical condition(s). The amount to qualify for "substantial work" may go up each year.
  • Your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year, or be expected to result in your death.




Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Disability Insurance is financed with Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers, and self-employed persons.  To be eligible for a Social Security benefit, the worker must earn sufficient credits based on taxable work to be "insured" for Social Security purposes.  Disability benefits are payable to blind or disabled workers, widow(er)s, or adults disabled since childhood, who are otherwise eligible.  The amount of the monthly disability benefit is based on the Social Security earnings record of the insured worker.

In other words, t his program pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are "insured" meaning that you worked and paid Social Security taxes for a period of time. The amount of time that an individual needs to have worked and the type of jobs that qualify are determined by the Social Security Administration.

To help you plan for your future the Social Security Administration offers a Disability Planner. It will explain the benefits available, how you can qualify, and who can receive benefits on your earnings record. It will also explain how to apply for the benefits and what happens when your application is approved.

The Disability Starter Kit will help you get ready for your disability interview or online application. Kits are available for adults and for children under age 18.




Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income is a program financed through general revenues.  SSI disability benefits are payable to adults or children who are disabled or blind, have limited income and resources, meet the living arrangement requirements, and are otherwise eligible.  The monthly payment varies up to the maximum federal benefit rate, which may be supplemented by the State or decreased by countable income and resources. 

This program pays benefits based on financial need. It is funded by taxes and not Social Security. It's purpose is to:

  • help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income
  • provide cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.


Some states provide additional SSI supplements.




Tips From a Former Disability Examiner

A former Disability Examiner with the Social Security Administration has created a website to inform the public about information they should know before filing a disability claim. The author also discusses having representation during the process. He currently represents disability claimants. Even though getting representation is encouraged, there is a wealth of information available for anyone whether they decide to have representation or not. Some of the advice is typical of what an attorney or representative would offer to give you the best chance to win a claim for disability benefits.


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