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Social Security Disability Benefits - The Critical Safety Net for America's Disabled Workers

Social Security Disability Insurance or better known as the SSDI is an insurance program of the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides benefits to individuals who could not attend their job due to a disability. Individuals who are considered eligible for this program are those who have worked for a long enough time and have been able to pay tax contributions to the SSA.

Moreover, applicants should meet the program’s medical criteria to be able to receive disability benefits. If you want to know more about this program, read further.

Eligibility Requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance

There are two major requirements you must meet to be determined eligible for disability insurance:

  1. The first one is that you must have worked in an institution or establishment that is covered by the SSA (make sure that you are insured and you pay Social Security taxes); and
  2. The second one is that you must have a disability that fits with SSA’s definition of disability.

Work Credits

Work credits refer to the credits you earned through the wages you received within a year or it also refers to the income generated for self-employed individuals. Usually, an employee can earn about 4 credits in a year.

Take note that the number of work credits you earned will be used to determine your eligibility for disability insurance. The SSA’s required number of work credits depends on the applicant's age.

Usually, they require about 40 work credits, 20 of which are earned during the last 10 years of employment until the year you get disabled. However, younger workers can avail themselves of insurance even with fewer work credits.

SSA’s Definition of Disability

To be qualified for disability insurance, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Currently could not attend work due to disability;
  • Inability to adjust to another work due to disability; and
  • The disability should be expected to last long (about 1 year or longer) or expected to result in death.

Take note that the SSA follows these standards in determining your eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance. Short-term disabilities or partial disability is not covered by this insurance. If you were not able to qualify for SSDI, you can acquire support from other resources like unemployment benefits or compensation, savings, or other insurance policies.

How to File a Claim?

There are three ways of application that you can choose from when applying for SSDI, which are the following:

  • By phone - just call their toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213 (working hours are between 8 am to 7 pm.
  • Through online - just visit this link to get started:; or
  • In-person - you can visit your state’s local agency that administers disability insurance and inquire for details on the application process.

The Application Process

Below is the application process when applying for disability insurance:

  1. The first thing you need to do is to compile all documentary requirements. Don’t know what exact documents to prepare? Visit to get access to the checklist of needed documents.
  2. After preparing all requirements, proceed in completing the application form and submit it afterward.
  3. Upon submitting, the SSA will assess your information and determine whether you qualify for disability insurance or not. In this phase, the SSA will check the years of employment as well as your current work activities.
  4. After the assessment, the SSA will process your application and it will be given to the Disability Determination Services in your area to give the final verdict of your application.

Take note that during your application, the SSA may request more documents and records, thus it is crucial to make sure that you have with you the documents that you think might be needed on your application.

A mail will be sent to you upon completion of the application process telling you whether your application is approved or not.

The Evaluation Process

When applying, always keep in mind the 5 questions that will determine your eligibility for disability insurance:

  • Are you currently working? - You will be considered disabled if you currently don’t have a job and your income is below the limits of the Substantial Gainful Activity or SGA, this then may qualify you for disability insurance.
  • Is your disability severe? - The SSA will consider you disabled if your disability is proven to interfere with your job or other work-related jobs. If not then your application will have a lesser probability that it will be approved.
  • Does your type of disability belong to the list of disabling conditions? - The SSA has a list of disabling conditions that will approve your application if your disability is on their list. If not so, then the SSA will continue assessing your condition if it is severe enough to qualify you for disability insurance.
  • Can you do the job you previously had? - If your disability prevents you from doing the job you had before you got disabled, then the approval of your application is not that far.
  • Are you able to do other types of jobs? - If you were not able to do your previous work due to your disability, the SSA will also assess if you are able to fit other kinds of work. If they determine that you are indeed capable, then there’s a lower chance of approval. Whereas if you are not capable then your application will be approved.

If you successfully answered these questions, your application has a bigger chance to be approved.

How Much To Receive?

The number of benefits you will receive upon successful application will depend on your lifetime average earnings that you acquired while working before the onset of your disability. The earnings are part of your wages that is paid to the SSA.

Difference Between SSDI and SSI

Both the Social Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs are substantial SSA programs that offer benefits to the disabled. The difference between the two though is the qualifying requirements:

  • The SSDI determines eligibility by assessing the disability as well as the work history of the applicant; whereas
  • The SSI determines eligibility by assessing the disability and the limited income resources of the applicant.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Avail Both SSDI And SSI Benefits?

Yes, it is possible to receive from both programs so long as you meet both of the programs’ requirements (limited resources and qualifying work history).

How Long Will I Wait Until My Application Is Processed?

Upon your application, you might wait for an average of 3-5 months of processing before your application will be approved or rejected.

My Application Is Rejected. What To Do?

If you believe that your application has been rejected wrongfully and that you know that you fit the program’s qualifications, you can ask for help from the National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representative so that they can represent you.

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